Active matrix small/medium displays, key components for a range of devices such as mobile phones, digital still cameras, portable and automotive navigation devices, e-book readers and tablet computers, recorded worldwide shipments of two billion units in 2011, representing a 6% increase over 2010.

However, according to the “NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report,” revenue from small/medium displays reached US$28 billion, a 29% year-over-year (Y/Y) increase. The strong revenue growth reflects a shift to higher performance displays with higher prices.

The leading growth area for active matrix small/medium displays was in mobile phones, driven largely by the growing demand for smart phones. Shipments of active matrix displays for mobile phones grew from 1.4 billion units in 2010 to 1.5 billion in 2011. However, the growing popularity of smart phone devices cannibalized shipments for digital still cameras and portable media players (PMPs) in 2011, as consumers used them to take pictures and play music and videos. As a result, the growth of total active matrix small/medium display shipments was 6% Y/Y.

All three technologies used for active matrix small/medium displays showed double-digit revenue growth in 2011, in particular AMOLED had 182% Y/Y growth. Driven by e-book reader demand, AMEPD (electrophoretic) revenues grew 43% Y/Y, and TFT LCD revenues grew 19%, with the low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) form of TFT LCD used in smart phones growing at 36% Y/Y.

According to NPD DisplaySearch, the growth of smart phones impacted the display industry in other ways, leading to higher shipments of larger and wider screens, with higher resolutions and wider viewing angles, as well as other features such as touch panels. Consequently, the average price of mobile phone displays increased significantly, serving as a major reason for the Y/Y revenue increase for small/medium displays.

“Other applications for small/medium displays, such as automotive monitors, tablet PCs and e-book readers, contributed to the total average price rebound among small/medium displays in 2011,” says Hiroshi Hayase, NPD DisplaySearch Vice President of Small/Medium Display Research. “This is representative of a larger trend, a consumer shift to a preference for higher performing devices, even when they cost a bit more.”

As expected, Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) retained the top position for the second year in a row, claiming 17.2% of the market share in 2011, primarily due to increased AMOLED in smart phone devices. Following SMD, Sharp and Chimei Innolux kept the second and third positions in 2011, securing 13.5% and 9.5% of the market share, respectively.

Concurrently, Toshiba, Sony and Hitachi have entered the small/medium AMFPD market, joining forces as one company named Japan Display, Inc. (JDI). Although the company started operations in April 2012, a review of 2011 figures indicates that a combination of Toshiba, Sony and Hitachi market shares total 17.2%, the exact same percentage as the 2011 share held by marketplace leader SMD. As such, NPD DisplaySearch forecasts that JDI will emerge as a new leading company in the small/medium FPD marketplace in 2012.