Foldable smartphone display market to 'explode' in 2020

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

Shipments of foldable displays will increase fivefold in 2020 and rise dramatically over the next five years as manufacturers scramble to get new form factors into the hands of consumers.

According to analysts at Omida, shipments of foldable AMOLED screens will increase from 700,000 in 2019 to 3.9 million in 2020.

However, this only represents 1.3% of the global market for flexible OLED displays, which leaves plenty of room for growth.

Foldable smartphones

Smartphone sales have plateaued in recent years due to longer refresh cycles, the increased cost of handsets and a perceived lack of innovation.

Foldables might not address price concerns - at least not initially - but coupled with demand for 5G connectivity, might solve the other two barriers to growth. It is unclear what impact coronavirus will have on the market, however.

So far, six foldable devices have been launched - the most notable of which was the Samsung Galaxy Fold. One major issue has been reliability, with both the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X subject to delays as a result of such concerns.

“Foldable AMOLEDs are triggering a wave of innovation in smartphone form factors, allowing small devices to support very large displays,” said Jerry Kang, Senior Principal Analyst at Omida. “However, shipments were limited last year due to the extremely high pricing and low reliability of these models."

“Foldable displays are currently difficult to mass produce with high reliability and low cost due to their extreme mechanical and optical properties. As a result, smartphone makers are using foldable displays with lower resolutions than they employ in their flagship models, which enables manufacturing at lower costs and with better yields than high-resolution display panels.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.