Diverse panel lineup at CES 2024 hints at new era for TVs, smartphones, and automobiles

Daniel Chiang, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Photo: Automotive display is AUO's main showcase at CES 2024. Credit: DIGITIMES

Innovation in display products has always been a focal point at the annual CES event. Looking back at CES 2024, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics stood out with their transparent displays and eye-catching 360-degree foldable panels. Various automotive displays from Taiwanese, Chinese, and South Korean manufacturers showcased the diverse possibilities for the future TV, mobile, and automotive panel markets.

Transparent displays could be breakthrough for manufacturers, unlikely to fully replace traditional TVs.

In the TV market, the two major South Korean manufacturers, Samsung and LG, have always been the ones to lead technological development. With 2023 being a rather dismal year for the TV market and the rapid development in high-end TV technology by Chinese brands, both South Korean companies are looking at "transparent displays" as a focus for future growth.

LG unveiled the transparent OLED TV, "LG Signature OLED T," at CES 2024, aiming for commercialization in the second half of 2024. On the other hand, Samsung showcased the industry's first transparent Micro LED product, demonstrating its technological prowess in borderless design, transparency, and high resolution.

Photo: The LG Signature OLED TV won the CES 2024 best innovative award. Credit: LG

Photo: The LG Signature OLED T won the innovative awards at CES 2024.
Credit: LG

A transparent display allows a clear view of the other side of the screen, similar to transparent glass. With correct color rendering and high design flexibility, the transparent display provides even more possibilities for interior space design. Apart from its use as a TV, it can also be applied to windows, walls, floors, and other spaces, indicating a high market potential. According to predictions by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the transparent OLED panel market scale is expected to grow from the current KRW600 billion (approx. US$450 million) to KRW12 trillion by 2030.

Moreover, while Chinese manufacturers have been rapidly developing their competitiveness in regular high-end TV aspects such as image quality, color rendering, size, and cost, South Korean companies still hold the technological lead.

At CES 2024, Chinese TV maker Skyworth also exhibited a transparent OLED TV, with reports suggesting that the panels are mass-produced by BOE and an official commercialization planned for 2025. However, based on the exhibited product, it's still relatively lacking in transparency and color rendering performance. It's anticipated that LG will seize this opportunity by leveraging the early commercialization of the LG Signature OLED T to gain an initial edge in the transparent TV market.

Photo: Skyworth showcased a transparent OLED TV at CES 2024. Credit: Skyworth

Photo: Skyworth showcased a transparent OLED TV at CES 2024.
Credit: Skyworth

Compared to LG, which has been very active in the transparent TV sector, Samsung is expected to take a wait-and-see approach. This is because, despite achieving breakthroughs in transparent Micro LED technology, there's still the issue of high production costs. A 110-inch transparent Micro LED display costs a staggering US$150,000. Therefore, Samsung will continue to observe the TV market's development before making definitive decisions about its business direction.

Some analyses stated that, even though the transparent display market is becoming active, it is unlikely to replace household TVs in the short term. Industry sources believe the transparency level needs to reach at least 70% to fully replace glass, but the highest transparency level right now is only around 45%. The technology still needs to evolve, and it is estimated that the commercial transparent display market will be the first to expand.

SDC's 360° foldable panel creates more new tricks for smartphones

Another item that received attention at CES 2024 was Samsung Display's (SDC) 360° In & Out Flip foldable smartphone panel technology. Currently, Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip series of products uses infolding. To increase foldable smartphones' ease of use, major brands are all attempting to expand the screen size on the back cover to allow access to all kinds of functions even while folded.

However, expanding the size of the back cover screen means that both power consumption and production costs for smartphones will increase. Cost control and battery efficiency will become challenging issues. Moreover, the device's weight could also increase and possibly compromise the lightweight image of foldable phones.

Through SDC's In & Out Flip technology, foldable smartphones can be used in the folded state while still using a single panel. It could reduce the amount of display components used, resulting in lower production costs and a lighter device.

Although the market scale for foldable phones is expected to grow annually, Chinese manufacturers, including Huawei, Honor, Oppo, Vivo, Transsion, and others, have rapidly risen. They've been making breakthroughs in thinness, battery capacity, cameras, and more while maintaining competitive prices. This has put pressure on Samsung. The market will monitor and see if Samsung can regain its market dominance through 360° panels.

Source: Counterpoint Research, compiled by DIGITIMES, January 2024

SDC's 360° foldable panel technology also hints at the diverse development of form factors for future mobile devices. It has been reported that Huawei is investing in the R&D of a triple-fold smartphone, expected to be launched before March 2024. Samsung is also preparing to introduce rollable panels to its smartphone products, with the earliest possible launch in 2025. Motorola showcased a bendable concept phone at the Lenovo Tech World conference, demonstrating its ability to fold, unfold, and bend to be worn on the wrist.

With the growth of traditional slate smartphones stagnating, smartphone manufacturers are relying on AI features to attract attention. They are also exploring the diversification of form factors to break the public's perceptions of smartphones.

Automotive displays flourish as SDV takes a three-stage approach

The automotive sector was undoubtedly one of the focuses at CES 2024, as it featured several concept cars showcasing the latest technologies in automotive displays from various countries. For example, Taiwanese panel manufacturers AUO and Innolux centered their CES exhibits around smart cockpits.

AUO announced an automotive Display Human Machine Interface (HMI) solution utilizing Micro LED technology and a Mini LED dashboard that extends from the driver's position to the front passenger side. Meanwhile, Innolux subsidiary CarUX presented a series of 15 to 55-inch automotive displays with a curved design, incorporating new technologies such as AM Mini LED and Micro LED.

LG Display (LGD) has also launched numerous products with differentiating technology like POLED, ATO, and LTPS LCD. This includes a large dashboard across the entire front seat, the Switchable Privacy Mode (SPM) that prevents the driver and front passenger from interfering with each other, and sliding/foldable OLED suitable for the back seat of vehicles to build a comprehensive in-vehicle application space.

SDC has also utilized foldable technology in vehicles, showcasing the "Flex Note Extendable" that covers both foldable and extension features, a major tool to help SDC compete in the automotive market. Harman has also revealed a Ready Vision QVUE automotive display equipped with Samsung's Neo QLED technology.

Similarly, Chinese manufacturers are also dedicated to innovation in automotive display technology, with showcases such as Hisense's automotive laser display technology and the 10.25-inch automotive Micro LED HUD from the collaboration between TCL and Sanan.

The panel industry's focus on the automotive market is due to the change in conception that cars are merely "a means of transportation." LG Display (LGD) categorizes the development of Software Defined Vehicles (SDV) into three stages: "Shift," "Evolution," and "Beyond." It has showcased concept cars and corresponding automotive displays for each stage.

In the "Shift" stage, the official implementation of SDV will result in a larger automotive display. Passengers can view driving information and conveniently access content services through displays. In the "Evolution" stage, cars will serve as a dual-purpose "transportation and resting space." Therefore, it requires a "user-centric solution" for displaying or changing forms based on user demand. In the "Beyond" stage, where fully autonomous driving is implemented, steering wheels will disappear, and various-sized panels and applications will fill the vehicle interior. The car will no longer be just a means of transportation but will transform into a "daily space."

Source: Omdia, compiled by DIGITIMES, January 2024

This is a similar concept to what Simon Hsu, the senior director of the mobility solution business unit at AUO, presented at CES 2024, which is to define the smart cockpit as "a third living space" outside of one's home and office. When people can do more things in cars, the hardware has to comply with user demand and develop diversely.

At CES 2024, the wide variety of automotive display form factors and technologies is expected to bring the panel industry to a new wave of growth.