Shipments of OLED panels for TV will account for only a tiny portion of the global TV market during the next six years, despite a nearly 200 times increase in AMOLED panel revenues during the same period, according to iSuppli. Consumers are turned on by the bright, clear pictures produced by OLED TVs, but they are tuning out to the smaller-sizes and prohibitively high prices of these sets.
Global revenues of OLED panels for use in TVs will surge to US$1.8 billion in 2015, up from US$10 million in 2009. This will make TV the biggest revenue-generating application for OLED panels in 2015, surpassing the much higher-volume market of main displays for handsets. The large-size of TVs relative to the small displays on handsets means the pricing for their OLED displays is dramatically higher, boosting revenues.
However, even with this growth, unit shipments of OLED TV panels will amount to just 850,000 units in 2013 and only 4.7 million units in 2015, up from 25,000 in 2009. This represents a tiny number of shipments compared to the LCD TV panel market, which is set to reach 232.6 million units in 2013.
"Ever since Sony Corp. unveiled an 11-inch AMOLED TV in late 2007, consumers and the display industry have been buzzing about its stunning images," said Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst, small- to medium-size displays, for iSuppli. "But average pricing for an 11-inch AMOLED TV is presently about US$2,500, compared to US$704 for a 42- to 44-inch LCD TV. Due to manufacturing challenges and limited production, OLED TVs will remain small in size and high in price in the coming years, consigning them to small niche of the global TV market at least through 2015."
LG Display will be launching a 15-inch AMOLED TV for the Korean market by Christmas this year. As the demonstrations of this TV proved, AMOLED technology offers several advantages compared to LCDs.
Beyond the obvious attribute of superior image quality, AMOLEDs have a very slim form factor. They also consume much less power than LCDs, making them attractive to environmentally conscious consumers.
The major barriers for the OLED TV market include limited manufacturing, technological and quality challenges and the increasing competitiveness of LCDs.
"The AMOLED market presently has few suppliers," Jakhanwal said. "This precludes competition that could drive prices down and volume up."
There currently is no investment in fabs capable of producing larger AMOLED panels that can compete directly with the most popular LCD TV sizes. Because of this, it is unknown whether high-volume manufacturing of large-size AMOLED panels can generate yields that are competitive with other display technologies. OLED panels are based on a current-driven backplane technology that offers poor stability and a lack of uniformity.
Lifetime issues are also a concern, with large-size AMOLED TV sets' operational life constrained by the OLED material performance and differential aging of the various materials in the display.
AMOLEDs also suffer from "image sticking," a phenomenon that leaves an artifact on a screen after a static image is displayed too long.
On the competitive front, LCD TVs are improving their refresh rates, moving from 120Hz to 180Hz and 240Hz. They also are using LED backlights to improve color performance. Furthermore, LCDs are getting thinner, reducing a key advantage of OLEDs. Finally, TFT-LCD prices are dropping quickly, expanding their cost edge over OLEDs.