China Is Shaping the Landscape in Foldable Phones and Displays

China Is Shaping the Landscape in Foldable Phones and Displays

2023 was the year of the explosion of foldable phones with the launch of 18 foldable phones and one planned to release by the end of the year. According to Omdia’s Smartphone Display Intelligence Service, 16 of the handsets were manufactured by Chinese smartphone makers and 13 of them adopted Chinese OLED maker's foldable phone displays.

Additionally, the premium features popular in foldable phones such as LTPO backplane, polarizer-less technology, and ultra-thin-cover-glass, which appear in the OLED displays are being supplied by Chinese OLED makers now, as well as Korean OLED makers. With a selection of foldable phones available such as book-style, clamshell-style, and out-fold-style, consumers can choose from a price range between $600 to $2,000. In 2024, the foldable phone will increase in size to the Z-style that closes to a tablet when unfolded.

Chinese OLED manufacturers BOE, and China Star both mass-produced and supplied the foldable displays with LTPO backplane, polarizer-less technology, and ultra-thin-cover-glass. Visionox also mass-produced foldable displays with LTPO backplane and polarizer-less technology but has not implemented ultra-thin-cover-glass display shipment yet. In 3Q23, BOE’s foldable phone display shipments were 1.3 million, China Star’s shipment was close to 500k, and Visionox’s shipment at around 350k. Omdia estimates the three Chinese OLED makers’ foldable display shipment will be approximately 3.7 million in 4Q23, and the annual shipment is expected to reach 8 million.

According to Chinese smartphone makers’ ambitious business plans, the foldable phone display demand (excluding sub-display) will be around 14.5 million, with Chinese OLED makers supplying at least 13 million displays to Chinese smartphone makers in 2024.

“Both Chinese smartphone makers and OLED manufacturers can upgrade foldable phones and displays much quicker than Korean makers now,” said Joy Guo, Principal Analyst at Omdia’s Displays practice. “The supply chain of foldable phones is maturing at an unexpected speed. The related skills and experience are easily transferrable within the industry and in an extremely competitive environment. These events have led to significant collective progress. Overall, this is good for consumers, but for practitioners, it is exhausting to stay on top of this fast-moving trend.”