Huawei, Xiaomi Team up with Taiwanese Backlight Makers to Launch Mini LED-lit Smartphones

Since Apple joined to share some of the OLED supply for its iPhone X in 2017, the shortage of OLED panels has become intensified. Because of the agreement Apple signed with the exclusive supplier Samsung, Apple always stays in the list as the top priority that a large proportion of the OLED supply goes to. Other smartphone manufacturers struggle as they also want to use OLED panels for their products but the supply is simply not enough. Thus, they, the Chinese smartphone brands in particular, turned to Mini LED.

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A manufacturer in the supply chain pointed out that was why these Chinese brands, including Huawei and Xiaomi, turned to Taiwanese Mini LED supply chain. Huawei and Xiaomi prepared to launch smartphones with Mini LED-lit screen. In 2Q18, these smartphone brands will start to work with those Taiwanese companies on Mini LED backlight modules for smartphones.

What makes Mini LED-lit screens distinguished is that they are energy-efficient. Also, they feature high compactness and present high color-accurate images. With these features, Mini LED-based displays are able to compete against OLED ones. Mini LED is the next generation technology that some Taiwanese panel makers developed to compete with OLED.

Taiwan's largest Mini LED chip manufacturer Epistar expressed that Mini LED chips for smartphone and TV backlights might be put into mass production in 2H18. Related specifications will be finalized before the production starts in 1H18. The manufacture of Mini LED chips for high-end gaming monitors might also begin in 2H18.

One thing worth noting is that OLED is self-emitting while Mini LED serves as a source of backlight. Compared with traditional backlight modules using standard LEDs, more LED chips, a lot smaller ones, will be embedded in Mini LED modules to support the sophisticated HDR local dimming feature.

All research institutes predict that Apple will launch 3 new iPhone models in 2018. At least two of them will use OLED screens. Apple will definitely require an extra portion of the OLED panel supply, which will inevitably affect other brands that also plan to launch OLED smartphones.

Consequently, in order to compete against OLED, the demand for Mini LED might keep rising in the future, indirectly benefiting companies in related supply chains.

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