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Bigger screens to drive smartphone growth

Full-screen Display, which offers larger screens and vivid visual performance in smartphones, is expected to become a must-have technology among new phone models. 
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A phone model to showcase full-view display technology

FULL-VIEW Display, which offers larger screens and vivid visual performance in smartphones, is expected to become a must-have technology among new models released this month from Xiaomi, Apple, Samsung, Vivo and Gionee.

The new screen technology, featuring a length/width ratio of 18:9 compared with 16:9 now, is being widely adopted. It is seen as a major catalyst to boost smartphone sales and a “killer app” on smartphones after camera upgrades.

“The battlefield has changed — cameras in the first half and now screens in the following months (of 2017),” said Liu Lirong, Gionee’s chairman.

Gionee, which sold 40 million units in 2016, plans to kick off its latest model with a full-view display screen in Thailand later this month. And Xiaomi, Apple and Vivo also recently said they would release new models with full-view displays this month.

Samsung, LG and Sharp have already launched flagship models with this technology.

Apple is due to release the next-generation iPhone next week, which is expected to feature the new screens. Samsung will unveil its latest Note 8 model in China also with the same technology.

Besides global market leaders Apple and Samsung, others are joining the advanced screen wave. Industry insiders expect there will be at least 10 smartphone releases in September and October, all featuring the new technology.

The advanced screens are being adopted initially in models costing US$600 or more but will soon be available in mid-range and low-cost models, said Jia Mo, an analyst at research firm Canalys.

“It (full-view screen) is a ‘Wow’ product to woo consumers. And it will become a must-have feature soon, like the dual-camera feature,” Jia said.

In the second quarter, sales of full-view display smartphones reached 22 million units, mainly high-end models from Samsung and LG, according to Canalys.

Video streaming, virtual reality and the bigger screen all boost demand, say firms such as Gionee and Vivo.

With new Apple, Samsung and Huawei flagship models with the new screen, smartphone sales growth will rebound to 5 percent globally — and probably 10 percent in China — in the third quarter, thanks to booming demand for upgrades, says research firm TrendForce.

In the short term, technology and cost become major challenges for the new screens, which have only three major suppliers: LG, Samsung and JDI.

The changes require design adjustments as well as the new technology, Jia warned.

He cited Xiaomi’s Mix, a full-view display concept product which ran into design problems on earphone and charging slots.

Xiaomi will launch its Mix 2 in Beijing on Monday, one day before Apple’s new iPhone release.

Liu forecast spplies of the new screens won’t fully meet growing demand until October.

But Gionee is addressing the issue through close communication with upstream suppliers, Liu said.

In the long term, the era of full-view screens will come as the costs fall to within “several dollars” of existing screens as volumes rise, analysts say.

In the third quarter, Chinese firms are going to benefit from the screen upgrade wave in both domestic and overseas markets, especially in Southeast Asia, said TrendForce.


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