[THE INVESTOR] Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, the nation’s two tech giants and top display makers, are expected to roll out their first foldable smartphones next year, a local analyst projected on Nov. 9.
“The year 2017 will be the first year of foldable smartphones for the mass market,” Kim Dong-won, an analyst at Hyundai Securities, said in his report. “Following the launches by the Korean firms, other global rivals such as Apple and Google are also likely to unveil their own versions in 2018.”
The analyst added that foldable smartphones would pave the way for handset makers to find a breakthrough in the highly saturated smartphone market.
“From the latter half of next year, Korean display makers like Samsung Display and LG Display will start producing the sixth-generation flexible organic light-emitting diode panels,” he said.
The two display makers are beefing up production of the latest OLED technology that is crucial for foldable smartphones that can be used as a tablet when unfolded.
Samsung, which dominates almost 97 percent of the mobile OLED market, plans to increase the number of the OLED production line from the current one to 10 by the fourth quarter of next year. It plans to produce 7-inch flexible OLED panels for 10 million smartphones per month.
LG also plans to expand the production for a monthly 1 million smartphones from the third quarter next year when its first production line starts operations.
“In the next three years, Korean display makers will dominate the production of the foldable OLED panels,” the analyst predicted.
In August, Samsung’s mobile chief Koh Dong-jin hinted the company was working on a foldable smartphone with aims to launch the first model soon.
“We are testing (the prototypes) to gauge the launch timing. But it is true that we need more time to meet consumer expectations in terms of innovation and convenience.”
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)