The latest smartphone market research by TrendForce shows that global sales have been fairly tepid in the first half of 2017. Besides the traditional off season effects, consumers have held off purchases in anticipation of future products with more exciting features. Still, total smartphone production volume for this year’s first half expanded by 7% compared with first half of the prior year, totaling nearly 650 million units. Collectively, Chinese brands posted a year-on-year growth in their production volume during these six months, while non-Chinese brands together recorded a year-on-year decrease.
TrendForce’s smartphone market outlook for the second half of 2017 indicates that strong sales will return due to the arrival of the three new iPhone models related to the 10th anniversary refresh of Apple’s iPhone series. None-Apple brands will also be releasing new devices in the third quarter to compete for market share. TrendForce estimates that total smartphone production volume for the year’s second half will increase by more than 10% versus the first half. As for the total annual production volume, it is currently projected to reach 1.39 billion units, which is slightly higher than last year’s figure.
Major brands to make the 18:9 screen a key selling point for their devices in 2H17
TrendForce notes that the design of mainstream high-end smartphones continues to strive towards thinner body profile, larger storage capacity, higher camera resolution, wider screen size and longer battery life. Additionally, fingerprint recognition is also becoming a standard feature for this market segment. However, efforts to constantly raising hardware specifications are hitting technological limits. Smartphone brands therefore are developing other ways to stand out among the competitions in addition to pursuing hardware upgrades. One approach is the optimization of existing hardware, such as the adoption of dual-lens camera for higher-quality photos. The other way is to improve user experience with design innovations.
For instance, numerous upcoming smartphone models for the second half of 2017 have displays with 18:9 aspect ratio (also known as 2:1 aspect ratio or full screen format). Brand vendors hope that the introduction of this design will not only enhance the user experience but also generate a buzz that will lift the market up from its lackluster performance in the year’s first half.
Full screen format is part of a new design trend that aims to expand the screen-to-body ratio without increasing the size of the whole device. Besides better viewing experience, the 18:9 display also makes single-hand operation of the smartphone easier compared with the 16:9 display.
Among the smartphones released in the first half of 2017, Samsung’s and LG’s respective flagship series Galaxy S8 and G6 both adopted the 18:9 aspect ratio. Apple is rumored to raise the screen-to-body ratio as well for the premium model of its next iPhone release. Therefore, the market can expect other vendors to follow footsteps of these leading brands and release flagships with 18:9 screens during the second half of 2017.
At present, the supply situation is uncertain for smartphone panels of full screen format. TrendForce believes the global top five smartphone brands will remain major contributors to the production volume growth of full-screen devices in this year’s second half. The penetration of 18:9 aspect ratio will increase more significantly later in 2018, when the panel industry allocates more of its production capacity for this type of panels to meet the rising demand.