Samsung Display was currently developing in-folding foldable OLED panels to supply to Oppo, Xiaomi and Google, TheElec has learned.
Smartphones using these panels will launch within the year.
The panel for Oppo folds from top to bottom __ it is an in-folding clamshell type. It is sized 7.7-inch unfolded, while the outer screen is sized between 1.5 to 2-inches. It is larger than the 6.7-inch used by Samsung Electronics for the Galaxy Z Flip, which launched last year.
Oppo last year unveiled an out-folding 7.7-inch foldable prototype. Last year, it used Samsung Display, BOE and Visionox as partners to develop foldable panels. However, this year, Samsung Display is its sole partner.
Xiaomi is also switching from out-folding to in-folding. Last year, it unveiled a prototype with a 7.92-inch screen, developed in partnership with Visionox. For its product this year, it is aiming for an 8.03-inch panel size. The outer screen will be sized 6.38-inch. The panel is being developed by Samsung Display and CSOT. CSOT, together with BOE, in 2019 supplied the foldable panel for used in Motorola Razr.
Google, meanwhile, has requested Samsung Display develop a foldable OLED panel around 7.6-inch in size.
More and more foldable products are choosing in-folding over out-folding. Royole and Huawei chose out-folding for their foldable phones unveiled in 2019. Huawei’s first foldable phone, Mate X, folded outwardly but its newest Mate X2 folds inward. Huawei uses BOE for its foldable panels.
It is easier to secure the curvature needed for the panel to fold with the out-folding method. The downside is that they are more vulnerable to external damage.
Despite Samsung Display’s lead in the area, Chinese panel companies are also developing foldable panels of their own. BOE, CSOT and Visionox are developing their own foldable panels for Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
However, currently, there has been no meaningful sales from foldable phones besides those manufactured by Samsung Electronics. Market research firm Omdia expects foldable OLED sales to reach US$2.1 billion this year, a 203% increase from 2020, but most of the sales are coming from Samsung Display. Apple is also yet to decide whether it will launch a foldable smartphone.