The core feature of a foldable phone is, of course, its foldable screen and it is also the biggest hurdle for smartphone makers who want to get into this market. There are extremely few companies producing flexible screens and those often have exclusivity arrangements with certain smartphone makers. Samsung Display, for example, supplies Samsung Electronics’ with the foldable screens for the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip but it might soon start selling these components to Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
The exclusivity may sound good for Samsung’s mobile business but it definitely isn’t for Samsung Display. The latter is already starting to feel the heat of the competition as more display makers start eating into its share of the OLED market. It needs another advantage to make it the preferred supplier of device makers and that may happen by opening up orders for its foldable screens to other manufacturers.
According to ETNews, Samsung Display will be supplying foldable displays to Chinese phone makers this year. This will include both kinds of screens that have been seen on the Galaxy Z Fold, which folds left and right, as well as the Galaxy Z Flip that folds up and down. Samsung Display will still of course reserve most of its panels for Samsung Electronics, giving it the upper hand when it comes to quantity.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Samsung Display tried to sell its foldable screens to another manufacturer. Huawei, which uses BOE’s foldable screen, was testing Samsung’s panels but that was put on hold after the Chinese OEM was hit with US export sanctions. Potential customers for Samsung’s foldable screens reportedly include OPPO and Vivo.
At the moment, Samsung Display has the upper hand as it is the only one so far using Ultra-Thin Glass or UTG, though that could change soon as BOE catches up. This shift in the display market could mean that we will soon find even more foldable phones this year, which will hopefully also include more affordable options.