Tag: display

If iPhone 6s fails, many will suffer

Dads Army Frazier - doomedSmartphone sales are falling, even for the fruity cargo cult Apple and it is starting to look like if the next iPhone 6s goes tits up many companies will go under.

Japan Display Chief Executive Mitsuru Homma said Apple is increasing orders ahead of the expected launch of the new iPhone this month.   This is the only good news for the company which has been suffering a lot lately.

Homma said that despite weakness in the Chinese market, Apple was confident that it would sell mire iPhones than ever.

“They’re coming to us with more orders, saying ‘give us more, give us more’. They keep increasing,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook last week reassured shareholders about the strength of the Chinese market for iPhones after a slump in China’s stock market and the devaluation of the yuan rattled investors. However all his figures were before the crash and do not take into account that Chinese buyers might be a lot more careful now about what they spend their money on.

But Cook’s optimism may not be that useful for the likes of Japan Display. The company was formed in a government-backed deal in 2012 from the ailing display units of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi.  Its recovery has been based purely because of strong Apple orders.   If the iPhone 6s tanks, Jobs Mob will have to retrench it could take Japan Display with it.

Apple and Foxconn will survive if the iPhone 6s does not sell well in China, but other companies, which are dependent on Jobs’ Mob will not be so lucky.

Many will be alarmed at rumours that the new iPhone 6s is not going to be a game changer and might actually be worse than the iPhone 6.  Tech news site cnBeta says the battery capacity of the standard-sized new iPhone will be reduced from 1810 milliampere hours to 1715 mAh, and the large-screened model will drop from 2910 to 2750 mAh. That amounts to a power drop of 5.3 per cent for the iPhone 6S and of 5.5 per cent for the larger iPhone 6S Plus or 7 Plus.

The phone is also touted to be heavier as Apple fixes the structural problems which made the iPhone 6 bend.

Internet cafés are dying out

Internet cafes, which were once the communication hub in developing countries, are fast dying out.

According to Quartz  the reason is the rise in smartphones which are making the need to go into a café largely redundant.

In Rwanda, one café went from 200 customers per day to just ten and in India they are suffering too—some in the southern city of Mysore have opted to sell stationery or sweets instead of web access.

Café owners have diversified their offerings to include flight bookings, mobile phone top-up cards, and accessories for various gadgets.

Cafés in Myanmar, where mobile penetration is extraordinarily low are seeing the same trend happen there.

More developed markets had seen cafés survive to cater for immersive online gaming. But the number of these sorts of cafes in South Korea fell to 15,800 last year from 19,000 in 2010.

The number of cafes in China, meanwhile, dropped seven percent to 136,000 in 2012 from the previous year.

All this flies in the face of a five-year study released by the University of Washington in July found that Web users in some developing countries continue to rely on public venues like cafes and libraries for Web access even when smartphones are available.

It insisted that one technology does not replace the other and mobile phones do not solve access problems. 

LG boasts of curved OLED smartphone display

LG is to start mass production of curved smartphone displays and launch a smartphone with the new screens next month.

Samsung has already announced that it will introduce a smartphone with a curved display in October.

Curved displays are being touted as the next big thing. They allow bendable or foldable designs that could eventually allow mobile and wearable gadgets to take new forms.

This could help along the smartphone market, where new ideas are desperately needed to keep it ticking along.

According to Reuters, LG has started production of a six-inch display curved top to bottom. It plans to launch a smartphone with the curved display in November. Samsung’s phone will have a display curved side to side.

Technology firms have yet to figure out how to mass produce the parts cheaply and come up with display panels that can be thin and heat resistant.

LG said its OLED is built using plastic substrates instead of glass, and by using film type encapsulation and attaching protective film to the back, it is “bendable” and “unbreakable”.

The company says its screen is vertically concave from top to bottom with a 700mm radius and is 0.4mm thin. LG boasts it’s the world’s thinnest and lightest, weighing in at 7.2 grams with a six inch screen.

Rumours of curved screens have been floating around for some time now. It was thought while companies were keen to implement them in smartphones, it was first necessary to figure out cheaper production methods that kept phones using the panels cost effective.

How many screens do you have?

I was in lovely San Jose a few months ago, and a charming chap saw that I had a notebook, a Samsung Galaxy SII and an Apple iPad to boot.

He asked me a question which caused me to ponder:  “How many screens do you have, Mike?”

It wasn’t until I got back to Oxford until I was able to tally the total.

Right here, in my “study”, I can count five, if I clued the LCD telly. In my “bedroom” I have two. Downstairs I have three. That makes a total of 10 and I am not counting the defunct phones in my drawers. If I counted them, I’d have 15 screens – hence your Mageek is in his own way bolstering the cartel rich LCD companies as if there was no tomorrow.

Now, one of my friends said: “Mike, have you written about Coltan yet?”  Coltan is an ore that is vital to electronic devices and some say that it has sparked all these atrocities happening in the Congo – a claim that has validity.

At the White Bull conference, recently held in Barcelona, an impassioned Sean Carasso reckoned that the world’s media isn’t writing about Coltan because there are way too many entrenched multinational interests to consider.

Indeed, in his speech at White Bull, Sean didn’t mention Coltan directly, but we saw it on one of the slides he flashed up. God bless an independent press!

AUO, CMI up wages as Chinese firms poach staff

Big Taiwanese tech firms such as AUO, Chimei Innolux and Hon Hai are upping wages in order to slow the brain drain of staff being poached by Chinese companies.

Chimei Innolux, for example, has given the nod for the biggest pay hike since global economic catastrophe struck back in 2008.  The flat panel manufacturer has increased wages by up to 15 percent to stop employee’s heads being turned by bigger pay cheques in China.

Another flat panel manufacturer, AUO, is worried about its workers getting snapped up and handed out pay rises averaging between 6-7 percent back in April, according to Taiwan Economic News. Top workers are getting double digit pay hikes.

More recently others such as TV manufacturer Sampo and semiconductor packaging firm ASE Inc have been dishing out extra cash to staff, with worries increasing over China’s workforce demands.

One display manufacturer in mainland China, CSOT, is apparently actively poaching engineers from Taiwan as it looks to grow its business with additional production output. This has involved looking at the staff rosters of Chimei and AUO in fine detail, before offering up to four times annual pay to persuade talent to jump ship.

There is also pressure on panel manufacturers from within Taiwan too, with semi producer TSMC also looking to nick staff.

This is down to TSMC’s low production of 28nm chips allowing orders to head to the likes of Samsung and UMC.  TSMC will now look to expand production, with flat panel display staff likely to be roped in as manufacturing process skills are similar in both methods.

Flexible fibres to create bendable 3D displays

Tiny fibres which project varying amounts of light could be used to create flexible 3D displays, according to researchers at MIT.

3D TV technology might be generating a collective shrug among the public, despite continuing to take more of the LCD market, but flexible technology offers an innovative way to view 3D images.

That is because a team at MIT has created an ingenious 400 nanometre fibre that can send different light information to a viewer’s eye, in a similar manner to the varying images transmitted as part of a stereoscopic 3D image.

A hollow fibre is layered with alternating layers of materials with different optical properties, creating a mirror surrounding a drop of fluid in the centre.  When the fluid is charged with energy it is bounced around the mirrored interior of the fibre, and emits as light radiated from the core as a 360 degree laser beam.

The core is surrounded by four channels filed with liquid crystals which can change the brightness emitted from the centre.  These crystals can be activated separately to give control over what is emitted and in which direction. Adding a number of liquid crystal channels is very scalable, so information can be sent in a variety of ways.  It is also possible to produce long lengths of the fibres, up to kilometres, so we hope this means it could be woven into 3D jumpers at some point in the future.

With only one pixel being transited from each fibre, there are problems about how viable a working display would be. The team reckons that by getting the fluid droplet at the centre to move fast enough, it could fool a viewer’s eye into believing it is more than just one coloured point.

Even if this doesn’t work, there are possibilities to use the technology in medical applications, such as irradiating diseased tissue, as it could be threaded into narrow openings.

IHS buys Displaybank

Technology analyst house IHS has bought another market research company, Displaybank, which will help it spread into consulting for the flat panel display industry.

The buy is also IHS’ first buy of an APAC based company. With its headquarters in Korea, Displaybank has been pretty well positioned to keep an eye on the ebb and flow of panel supply. It also has offices in Taiwan, China, Japan and the US.

As you would expect, Displaybank’s role is despatching an army of beancounters to look over the markets with fine tooth combs. Companies then pay it lots of money for advisory. Many of the electronics industry’s biggest players have their fingers in some panel-related pie. Whether it’s selling tellies or factories at full capacity, IHS knows it can convince businesses to hand over lots of money for its reports. IHS claims that flat panel execs and decision makers would be lost without Displaybank, and that is thanks to its “strong primary footprint” in Asia.

There is some opportunity to take a closer look at semiconductor specific based research in the region for it too, IHS thinks.

IHS chief exec Jerre Stead said the Asia Pacific region is “critical to our company’s growth”. Last year, IHS bought semiconductor supply chain analysts, iSuppli.


Samsung spins off loss-making LCD business

Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics has announced it will be spinning off its LCD business into an ‘affiliate’ while increasing its focus on OLED-based displays.

The move comes only a couple of months after it took over Sony’s share in its LCD joint-venture and a few days after announcing a $666 million loss for 2011, said Reuters. With business analysts predicting a bigger slowdown of LCD consumption in 2012, and increasingly low product margins, the fate of the loss-posting division has been cautiously excised from the company’s global fortunes, for now.

Tentatively named ‘Samsung Display Co. Ltd.’, the unit will launch on April Fools’ Day and will be left with an equal amount of cash in its pocket – $666 million – to fend off for its self. If you’re a cynic, you’ll think this little exercise in creative accounting is Samsung giving the business a one year chance to turn its fate around.

However, changes at the mothership are not expected to stop there. Among several working theories, Samsung Electronics may or may not merge the LCD subsidiary with its Mobile Display subsidiary, Samsung SMD, thereby concentrating all display businesses under one single unit.

This will be left up to the market, we believe, and how the LCD business will hold up on its own in the coming months.

While OLED, Samsung’s crown jewel, is far from mainstream, the transition from LCD to LED and then to OLED has been a bumpy one. It isn’t a surprise that Samsung management is cutting its risks. As we said earlier this month.

Panel market to bounce back in 2013

Industry watchers at NPD Displaysearch claim that, despite all the doom and gloom poised for the panel market – not helped by a predicted economic nosedive into a second recession – long term, there should be “light at the end of the tunnel”.

Although flat panel display manufacturers have lost heaps of money for the past six quarters, and the market is in the middle of its longest ever downturn, most players have frozen almost all expansion plans for LCD TV fabs, according to NPD. Lower prices are increasing demand, especially for large screen TVs. Thanks to those factors, the industry is slowly beginning to sort itself out and is approaching something resembling balance.

2013 should become a turning point. The oversupply should drop under 10 percent for the first time since 2010, NPD says, which should lead to improved panel pricing, better profits, and an increase in investment.

For now, though, the equipment market will really have to tighten its collective belt. NPD believes that this segment is in line for a “severe recession” in 2012, taking a substantial hit to the tune of 63 percent from 2011. Thanks to AMOLED production lines, this should bounce back somewhat in 2013.

IGZO based LCDs, too, are expected to give a boost to the market. Mass production began in the fourth quarter of 2011. Although at first IGZO LCDs will find their home in LCD tablet and Ultrabook displays, eventually they will become more widespread in high resolution large LCD TVs and in some AMOLEDs.

Samsung tipped to shift LCD to OLED business

Samsung has admitted it is scratching its head over how to turn around its ailing TV business, with speculation mounting that it will spin off its LCD wing.

As many other telly makers are hurt by dwindling profits and sales, even the all conquering Samsung has been making a loss on its TV business.

The Korean firm told Chosun Ilbo that it is mulling over which direction to take its LCD business, which has seen various factors such as price competition hurt sales. The global economic situation, too, has directly impacted on demand, with the LCD business incurring $891 million in losses last year alone, writes Reuters.

The manufacturing giant stopped short of admitting that it would spin off the LCD business, though it did little to dampen speculation by refusing to comment. A Samsung spokesperson said that while an internal review is currently taking place, “nothing has been decided yet”.

Samsung has already been talking about returning its OLED business, part of Samsung Mobile Display, back into the fold. It is through OLED production that the firm has its sights set on returning to profitability.

OLEDs are largely used in lower sized displays such as Samsung’s ultra bright smartphones, but both Samsung and its rival LG Electronics have been ploughing money into larger scale products too.  At CES, for example, the pair exhibited eye-watering – and presumably wallet draining – 55 inch displays.

Whether or not it is likely to be spinning off its LCD business Samsung looks certain to lead the way on ensuring OLED screens become viable as a long term replacement.

Bob Raikes, display expert at analyst house Meko, says that it is more likely to integrate the OLED and LCD businesses, rather than to spin off the unprofitable LCD business altogether.

“I wouldn’t expect to see Samsung spin out its LCD business – the company is very vertically integrated and TV production increasingly involves closer cooperation between panel and set maker,” he told TechEye.

“It seems more likely that the SMD (Samsung Mobile Display) and LCD businesses would be combined. I also can’t imagine who would want to invest in an LCD-only business!”

Part of the problem for LCD is that in many parts of the world uptake has already been strong, with countries such as the UK seeing continually lower prices even on larger size sets.

“LCD has reached the end of its strongest growth phase – there is only a limited revenue growth opportunity in the future,” Raikes says. “On the other hand, Chinese makers are starting to enter the LCD market in a much bigger way and that will threaten margins and costs. So display makers have to find ways to differentiate.”

Raikes says that OLED has the potential to be a better display for TV applications than LCD, but with lower costs. If Samsung can get the manufacturing right, he believes, it could potentially have a product that sells at a premium, but can be made for lower cost – “a win/win.”

The good news for Samsung is that it is by far the best placed to capitalise on a shift away from LCD and towards OLED production having already moved ahead of rivals: “At the moment, Samsung has a very substantial lead in small OLED production over all of its rivals,” Raikes said.

“We believe that it also has a considerable technological lead on large OLEDs for TV,” he continued. “If the company can bring volume manufacturing of large OLEDs for TVs to a high yield reasonably quickly, it could find a really significant improvement in its profitability.”