The market for flexible OLED display panes in smartphones is going to get a significant boost in 2019 following the launch of Samsung's long-expected folding handset, Digitimes Research predicts. That device is currently expected to launch before the year is out and could generate a higher demand for Android smartphones with similar features. Moreover, the company is already in a position to continue leading in that space. While there are still plenty of challenges to be addressed with regard to folding displays, Samsung's upcoming device announcement seems to suggest those have been solved. Chiefly, Digitimes Research says that the displays need to address issues with dust build-up in the folds of flexible panels or with the effects of repeated bending on the displays.
Meanwhile, Samsung seems to have moved beyond the development of panels with a curvature radius of less than 1.0R and will likely use those OLEDs in conjunction with the above-mentioned folding handset. That's at least partially due to advances in material sciences, including the introduction of colorless heat-resistant polyimide, that is well-suited to flexible displays. That's helped display manufacturers move into the second phase and could simultaneously help fuel further competition in the space from companies such as LG Display or China's BOE Technology. Each of the display manufacturers is vying to position itself as the go-to supplier for other handset makers such as Apple or other Android OEMs. LG Display, in particular, is expected to finalize development of 1.0R OLED panels in advance of its originally planned timeline. That means it may be ready to begin small volume production of the displays well before the end of 2019.
That growth in competition could further drive the market on an upward trend. At the same time, Digitimes Research predicts that LG Display will begin to close the gap between itself and Samsung by mid-2019. That's expected primarily in the small and medium form factor market for the panels. Whether or not that happens, however, may come down to whether or not other recent reports bear any weight. Samsung has been rumored to plan sales of its own flexible OLED displays to a number of competing hardware manufacturers in a bid to grow the market for folding devices rapidly. If that turns out to be accurate, Samsung may be able to undermine upcoming competitors' efforts to capture significant portions of market share for the display technology.