Huawei may use Samsung's folding displaysHuawei’s next foldable phone may come with Samsung Display panels, according to industry sources.
The rumor comes only a year after Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X competed to become the world’s first foldable smartphones, which ultimately ended with Samsung’s victory.
Huawei recently placed an order with Samsung Display for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels to be used as the main display in its foldable smartphones, industry sources said.
“In terms of technology, foldable displays are very difficult to make, so the pool of suppliers is extremely limited,” said an anonymous source. “It’s no surprise that Huawei picked Samsung.”
Both companies have refused to confirm the deal.
For its first foldable smartphone released last year, the Mate X, Huawei sourced displays from BOE, China’s largest display maker. But reports of faulty screens arose after the product’s launch, including wrinkles near the device's center hinge. One video out of China showed the device’s screen flickering in black and green with a cracked corner.
Samsung’s first foldable, the Galaxy Fold, also had to delay its official launch last year after hinge and screen-related issues were reported by U.S. tech reviewers. But after adjustments were made, the product was launched with no negative reviews of its display technology.
Samsung Display, the electronics giant’s main supplier, succeeded in mass-producing polyimide film displays for the Galaxy Fold last year. For the recent Galaxy Flip Z, Samsung's second foldable smartphone, Samsung Display developed what it calls Ultra Thin Glass and succeeded in mass production in February.
While polyimide films are practically strong plastic, the panel used on the Galaxy Flip Z uses a very thinly cut slice of tempered glass, which has the advantage of developing fewer wrinkles and being harder. The downside of the glass material is that it’s harder to cut, which is where Samsung’s technology stands out.
Last October, Huawei submitted a patent application for a foldable smartphone — presumably the Mate X2 — to the European Union Intellectual Property Office. An image in the document shows an inward folding design, meaning the larger screen is located inside the folded device. This design is much closer to the Galaxy Fold than the Mate X and Xs, which had their main screens on the outside of the device.
In a report in January, IT news outlet PhoneArena said it expected a Mate X2 release in the third quarter, with a form factor that “copies” Samsung’s inward fold.
A design patent does not necessarily mean a launch is imminent. But industry sources are linking the patent to a partnership with Samsung Display for foldable panels.
“Technology-wise, outward folding panels are easier to realize than inward folds because they don’t have to be as drastically bent,” said a smartphone industry source. “If Huawei really wanted to launch an inward folding smartphone [in the near future], Samsung would have been one of their very few options.”
For Samsung Display, whose main client is its electronics sister company, a supply deal with China’s largest, and the world’s second largest, phone maker is significant. The foldable panel market is young but one with high potential.
Market research firm Omdia forecast the market for foldable phone OLED panels will jump to 73.1 million units by 2026 from 3.9 million this year.
BY JANG JOO-YOUNG, SONG KYOUNG-SON [firstname.lastname@example.org]