Our Research Director, Tom Kang will be speaking at the DSCC FPD Industry Analysis Seminar on 28th November 2023. The event will take place at the 5th floor large hall of Tokyo Conference Center, Shinagawa, offering insights into the 2024 FPD industry landscape.
You can schedule a meeting with him to discuss the latest trends in the technology, media and telecommunication sector and understand how our leading research and services can help your business.
Tom is an expert in the telecoms industry with 14 years of experience. He provides practical advice for the short term goals of clients as well as insights for long term vision. Previously he was a celebrated world renowned analyst at Strategy Analytics. He first introduced value share and profit share. He also created the Smartphone Strategies service and headed the research growing it to become the largest service in the company. Tom also worked for LG Electronics within the Mobile Communications Company in various roles.
This presentation explores our latest regional smartphone data, highlighting 2023’s top-performing and underperforming countries, with insights into 2024 expectations, and delves into significant product and market trends.
About the DSCC Global Display Supply Chain Dynamics & Technology Outlook Conference:
The Global Display Supply Chain Dynamics & Technology Outlook Conference will host experts from around the world to discuss the latest display market results, forecasts, key display market and technology trends, and the key issues facing the display supply chain.
Jeff has 25+ years experience in technology research, business development, competitive intelligence, and business management. Prior to joining Counterpoint Research, Jeff held various research & product development roles at Microsoft, Nokia, Roth Capital Partners, and Gartner. Jeff is a member of many telecom industry organizations including Colorado Wireless Association, repair.org, CommNexus, and is a regular speaker at major telecom industry events. He was a 4x NCAA all-American in tennis and is a 12-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.
With tablets gaining a wider consumer base, tablet specifications are undergoing changes to meet the demands of a diverse range of applications.
Display sizes are increasing every year to cater to the growing range and consumption of multimedia and applications.
Battery capacity has seen continued advancements following the adoption of bigger displays.
Previously seen as only optional, devices such as the stylus and external keyboard have been accepted as necessary tools to realize the tablet’s fullest capabilities.
From a device used by a niche consumer base to a device widely used for work, study and entertainment at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the tablet has covered a big distance in a short span of time. This surge in its popularity can be attributed to its ability to combine the portable appeal of smartphones and the productivity offered by notebooks. The popularity, in turn, has triggered changes and improvements in the tablet’s features to meet the demands of a diverse range of applications.
These changes range from enhancements in technical specifications to refinements in the tablet’s light and slim structure. However, with tablets steadily approaching maturity in the market, certain ubiquitous preferences have emerged that are shifting the device away from its core design philosophy of portability. The focus is now more on increasing its productivity by improving certain technical parameters and features.
Tablet display size
One such improvement is the steady increase in display sizes. Being the sole medium through which users interact with tablets, displays have increased in size with every subsequent year, despite an increase in the weight of the device, to cater to the growing range and consumption of multimedia and applications.
Global Tablet Market Shipment Share by Display Size
Source: Counterpoint Research
Over the three years from 2020 to 2022, tablets continued to adopt increasingly larger display sizes with the 11” and above screens gaining share in total volumes. This trend is expected to continue in 2023. With the display sizes of 11” and above taking 34% of the tablet market in 2022 and forecasted to grow an additional around 4% points in 2023, tablets have started to take on roles traditionally filled by laptops for tasks in professional and educational settings, according to Counterpoint’s Tablet Research.
An increased battery capacity is another technical aspect that has seen continued advancements following the adoption of bigger displays. Occupying the maximum weight in a tablet, larger battery capacities have been crucial in supporting the ever-increasing demand for more power, stemming from larger and brighter displays and other performance enhancements.
Average Battery Capacity
Source: Counterpoint Research
After remaining relatively stagnant until 2021, the average battery capacity of tablets increased by 8% in 2022 due to the pandemic-triggered increase in usage. With the emphasis now being placed on longer usage than portability, tablet OEMs have started introducing devices with larger battery capacities to reduce the frequency of charging between uses. The average battery capacity is expected to continue growing, reaching 6658 mAh in 2023.
Lastly, the most noticeable shift in preference from mobility to productivity is the acceptance of external hardware as the new normal in the use of tablets. Previously seen as only optional, devices such as the stylus and external keyboard have been accepted not as remedial devices but as necessary tools to realize the tablet’s fullest capabilities. While these devices still come separate from tablets, they are offered by most tablet OEMs, with the majority of popular tablets optimized for their combined usage.
While tablets are still valued for their lightweight nature compared to their heavier and bulkier notebook counterparts, they are expected to continue favoring productivity over portability as larger tablets continue to maintain their popularity among consumers and grow further upon the increasing frequency of adoption of these preferences.
In 2022, more than a third of premium smartphones (≥$600) applied brightness over 900 nits. This is a 171% YoY jump.
Chinese OEMs are increasingly using brightness over 900 nits to strengthen their premium line-ups.
The trend of increasing brightness is gradually spreading to low-to-mid-priced smartphones.
For smartphone displays, visibility plays a more important role than in other devices like PCs and tablets. This is because smartphones are used outdoors for a substantial amount of time. Indicators like color gamut, contrast ratio, and brightness are important for a smartphone display striving to secure proper visibility. In addition, with the recent development of HDR, consumption of high-definition video content has soared, making good visibility more important than ever.
The display’s brightness can be divided into two main categories – typical brightness and peak brightness. Typical brightness refers to the level of brightness when using a smartphone in a general environment, such as indoors, while peak brightness refers to the level of brightness when using a smartphone in an extremely bright environment, such as a sunny outdoor environment. The brightness of smartphone displays is increasingly attracting interest from users and prospective buyers thanks to the increasing content consumption on the device. As a result, the competition among smartphone OEMs for display brightness quality is getting fiercer.
In 2022, over a third of premium smartphones (≥$600) applied brightness over 900 nits. This is a 171% YoY jump, which is not only due to Apple’s steady sales but also due to the increased use of this brightness band by Chinese OEMs trying to strengthen their premium line-ups, such as vivo, OPPO, and Xiaomi.
Global Premium Smartphone(≥$600) Display Brightness Share, 2022 vs 2021
Source: Global Smartphone Display Brightness Tracker, Q4 2022 Note: The chart is based on typical brightness.
Further, this trend is gradually spreading to low-to-mid-priced smartphones. For instance, Samsung has not only significantly increased the adoption of brightness exceeding 700 nits in its premium smartphones, but it has also brought down the share of brightness below 450 nits in its low-to-mid priced smartphones by about 20%p in 2022. More than 90% of Samsung’s low-to-mid-priced smartphones had brightness below 450 nits in 2021. As a result of these changes, the proportion of over 700 nits in Samsung’s portfolio increased 13%p YoY in 2022.
Global Low-to-Mid-Priced Smartphone Display Brightness Share, 2022 vs 2021
Source: Global Smartphone Display Brightness Tracker, Q4 2022 Note: The chart is based on typical brightness.
In line with the improvement in typical brightness, peak brightness, which is essential for expanding the smartphone use environment, is also developing. However, due to problems like eye fatigue and reduced power efficiency, these two types of brightness cannot be improved indefinitely. Therefore, the software’s role has become more important here in balancing user demands with technological enhancements.
Samsung started making OLED tablets as early as 2014, but most of its competitors remained unconvinced about using OLED.
COVID-19 led to tablet displays coming under focus, bringing back OLEDs in contention.
Falling manufacturing costs and the introduction of new technologies are set to make OLEDs an attractive option.
Many OEMs have started using OLED display panels in their newest high-end devices.
Significant developments in OLED penetration will have to wait till 2024 when tandem OLEDs’ mass production is expected to start.
Unlike the mass adoption of OLED panels that has happened in other devices, the use of OLED in tablets has only been pursued by a handful of OEMs so far. Samsung, one of the earliest adopters of OLED in tablets, started in 2014 but the shift proved ineffective in convincing its competitors to adopt the same. However, with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in increasing the importance of multimedia, tablet displays have progressively gained prominence. The market, which still predominantly consists of LCD panels, is starting to show all the necessary prerequisites for the expanded adoption of OLED in the tablet industry.
Prominent 2022 OLED Tablet Launches
Source: Samsung, Asus, Huawei, Lenovo
The biggest technological difference between OLED and LCD displays relates to how the pixels are illuminated. LCDs rely on an LED backlight for illumination while OLEDs provide individual pixel illumination to offer better color contrasts and viewing angles. These advantages, however, do not come without their costs. Two distinct factors have hindered OLED adoption in the past. First, and most important, is the large cost disparity between OLED and LCD panels. OLED panels are considerably more difficult to produce and are yet to reach the manufacturing scale of LCDs, leading to a higher cost per unit. Second is the reliability of OLEDs, as burn-in and pixel wear are more prevalent compared to LCDs, making them less suitable for the longer lifespan of tablets. These two issues, however, are likely to be resolved in the near future with falling manufacturing costs and the introduction of new technologies, like the two-stack tandem OLED structure which provides 4x durability and 2x brightness when compared to existing OLED displays. Leading display manufacturers have already started increasing their OLED production capacities. LG Display is doubling its output by increasing the capacities at the Paju and Guangzhou plants. This will ultimately lead to a reduction in the per-unit cost of OLED panels.
Global Tablet Market Share by Display Type
Source: Counterpoint Global Tablet Market Tracker
Global Tablet OLED Market Share by Brand
Source: Counterpoint Global Tablet Market Tracker
Tablets with OLED displays consisted of around 8% of the global tablet market’s shipments in Q3 2022 and are likely to grow incrementally with every quarter, reaching an estimated 15% in Q2 2024. Although OLED adoption rates showed only modest growth in the previous year, OEMs have started using OLED display panels in their newest high-end devices. Due to the gradual diversification of model lineups, market leader Samsung dropped by 11% points YoY in Q3 2022, while Lenovo and Huawei gained 8% and 3% points respectively. OEMs like Lenovo are expected to further increase their OLED tablet market share with newer models slated to release in mid-2023.
Despite the increasing OLED tablet launches from leading OEMs, significant developments in OLED penetration will likely remain dormant in 2023 due to the likelihood of OLED displays remaining costly. Mass production of tandem OLEDs is slated to begin in 2024 with LG Display expected to start production as early as Q1 2024. Apple, the market mover in the tablet industry, is also predicted to announce OLED iPads in a similar time frame and expected to take a considerable market share of 21% in Q2 2024. With Apple’s adoption of OLED tablets, other OEMs will likely follow suit, accelerating the shift to OLED displays as the new tablet standard.
Q3 2022 revenue increased 8% YoY to reach ₩16.12 trillion helped by higher sales of vehicle solutions.
Vehicle solutions revenue jumped 46% YoY during the quarter, helped by the improved global semiconductor supply and increased auto production in China.
Operating profit increased 33% YoY to reach ₩0.79 trillion.
LG Electronics (LG) reported an 8% YoY growth in Q3 2022 revenue to reach ₩16.12 trillion despite considerable macro headwinds but helped by higher sales in its vehicle solutions and business-to-business segments. Quarterly gross profit rose 5% YoY to ₩5.05 trillion while operating profit grew sharply by 33% YoY to reach ₩0.79 trillion.
During the quarter, investor sentiment was weak due to a steep devaluation of the South Korean won against the US dollar, hurt by strong economic headwinds. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 6.5% in Q3 2022, which negatively affected LG’s performance.
Revenue from the consumer electronics segment fell 1% YoY to ₩11.19 trillion due to increased logistics costs and lower demand for premium products like TVs. This segment contributed to 69% of total revenue during the quarter.
Among all the segments, vehicle solutions was the best performer. The segment’s revenue jumped 46% YoY to ₩2.35 trillion during the quarter helped by the relative improvement in the global semiconductor supply chain. The segment accounted for 15% of the company’s total revenue. China faced a lot of factory shutdowns in the preceding quarter due to regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As factories reopened in Q3, there was an increase in production which helped meet the heightened demand for electronics components in the automotive industry. This, combined with an improved cost structure, helped LG achieve strong growth figures for the period.
Revenue from other businesses grew 23% YoY reaching ₩2.60 trillion. Despite an increase in sales, the profitability of this segment decreased 63% due to lower demand for IT products and higher raw material costs.
LG’s gross profit increased 5% YoY to reach ₩5.04 While the company’s operating profit grew sharply, gross profit growth was relatively muted because of increased market competition, low consumer demand, increased raw material prices, increased marketing expenses and the energy crisis.
The current global business environment is quite difficult, burdened by rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, geo-political tensions, increased logistic costs and the energy crisis, which have weighed negatively on consumer sentiment across industries. LG plans to prioritize on the development of new software platforms and adjust its channel inventory to overcome the ongoing crisis. LG will focus on its premium consumer electronics products and will likely maintain maximum margins to secure high profits. The company will also apply cost-saving initiatives to reduce raw material costs.
The vehicle solutions segment has the highest potential to expand as the global semiconductor shortage is easing out and OEMs like Honda, GM and Stellantis are working to jointly produce battery cells. Moreover, LG has secured an order worth ₩1 trillion from Tesla to supply automotive camera modules for the Tesla Model 3, Model Y and Cybertruck. These new deals will drive LG’s vehicle solutions segment to a great future.
LG is also strengthening its focus on new technologies like metaverse and robotics. It recently partnered with KT Corporation to expand its AI robot service business. LG will also establish an R&D centre and develop robots for logistics, education and healthcare services. LG’s strategic partnership with TmaxMetaverse will boost development across metaverse solutions and web-based metaverse services. The company will have the opportunity to capitalize on these technologies by the time they mature at the end of the decade, which will help it boost revenue.
With the release of the Xiaomi 12S series in early July, Xiaomi has further expanded its flagship portfolio in its home market. The new series is also being seen as an extension of the Xiaomi 12 series, aimed at consolidating the brand’s presence in the $600 and above wholesale price band through the second half of 2022.
Xiaomi 12 Series Failed to Strengthen its Share in Premium Segments (>$600)
Thanks to promotions during the 2022 Xiaomi Fans Festival, Xiaomi managed to improve its sales share in the flagship battlefield in April. However, the brand desperately needs new flagship models to replace the Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro, whose performance has been far less than expected. Against this backdrop, Xiaomi has introduced the new Xiaomi 12S line-up with optimized user experiences.
Sitting at the top of the new series, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is a successor of the Xiaomi 11 Ultra. The latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus platform, the all-new Samsung E5 LTPO 2.0 OLED display and the industry-leading 1-inch 50MP main camera, as well as a tie-up with Leica, represent the major areas of upgrades.
According to Counterpoint Research’s BoM Analysis Practice, producing a Xiaomi 12S Ultra equipped with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage costs around $516. The market price of the model is RMB 5,999 or around $899. The processing, display and image sub-systems, along with memory, contribute nearly 67% of the total manufacturing cost. Below is the functional cost structure of the ultra-premium model.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra BoM Cost Increases to $516
In terms of suppliers, Qualcomm, Samsung and Sony are among the beneficiaries. Qualcomm has a wide range of design wins, from the SoC and paired power management and RF transceiver to RF front-end components, connectivity IC and audio codec. The latter two vendors provide the display panel and LPDDR5 RAM, and image sensors respectively.
Xiaomi has shipped more than 2 million Xiaomi 11 Ultra smartphones so far at the same starting price of RMB 5,999 or around $899. The Xiaomi 12 Ultra is expected to take the baton from here and help improve Xiaomi’s profitability in the ultra-premium segment.
The HONOR Magic4 Ultimate has a curved 6.81-inch LTPO screen and a Penta-camera setup at the back.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, a customized AI ISP, and a standalone security chip, jointly delivering flagship experiences in display, photography, videography, gaming and privacy.
The premium flagship smartphone supports 100W fast-charging and 50W wireless-charging speeds.
Amid the intensifying premium smartphone battle in China, HONOR has successfully upgraded its flagship lineup with the Magic4 Ultimate. Sitting at the top of the Magic4 series, the Magic4 Ultimate, like its predecessor, brings great innovations in hardware and software.
Equipped with 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, it is still priced at ¥7,999 or around $1,230 for the China market. The model’s performance is comprehensively improved with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and a customized AI ISP. I have been using the smartphone for a while and it impressed me in three key areas:
The Magic4 Ultimate strives to present a combination of beauty and advanced technologies. Its exterior consists of a 6.81-inch bezel-less quad-curved screen, a flashy stainless steel middle frame, and a refined nanocrystal ceramic shell that creates a sense of elegance.
The gaming experience, built on the fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine and HONOR’s enhanced GPU Turbo X technology, is smooth and enjoyable.
The last but the most important is the sophisticated and powerful imaging system. The rear penta-camera setup is led by a 50MP, 1/1.14-inch large main camera and performs extremely well in capturing true-to-life images with superb clarity and rich details day and night. I will discuss the three highlights and other features in detail in my review below.
HONOR strengthens its presence in China’s flagship battle with Magic4 Ultimate
In 2021, China’s premium smartphone market recorded significant YoY growth with nearly one out of four smartphones being sold at above $600. This lucrative segment is becoming ever more important, particularly for China-based brands looking to improve their product mix and achieve meaningful earnings against the overall decline in smartphone sales, while enhancing their brand image.
The new round of competition started following the announcement of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC in December 2021. Soon after the availability of the vivo X80 Pro in late April 2022, major Android brands launched 25 premium models with the flagship SoC inside. To stand out from the crowd, HONOR made great efforts in unleashing the full potential of the system by leveraging its self-developed Turbo X technologies, and also implemented multiple heat dissipation solutions, including the graphene film and VC plate, to maximize the computing power. In addition to the cutting-edge SoC, HONOR empowers the Magic4 Ultimate and other models from the Magic4 series with a brand-new LTPO display and upgraded imaging system. According to Counterpoint’s China Smartphone Weekly Tracker, the monthly sales of the Magic4 series quickly crossed 200,000 units in April, having been among the best-selling Android flagship phones in China since March.
Commenting on the upgrades from the Magic3 Ultimate, Research Analyst Mengmeng Zhang said, “The Magic4 Ultimate undoubtedly has greater computing capabilities, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 promising 20% faster CPU, 30% faster GPU and 4x faster AI performance compared to the Snapdragon 888. On top of the industry-leading 5G mobile platform, three standalone processors, represented by the dedicated AI ISP, play an important complementary role and allow users to explore more premium and unique experiences. Besides, the improvements in display, camera, security and battery life also stem from using the advanced LTPO technology, improved camera setup, and more secure fingerprint and faster-charging solutions.”
Magic4 Ultimate vs Magic3 Ultimate
Design: Emphasizes sense of harmony, symmetry, elegance
The Magic4 Ultimate largely inherits design characteristics from its predecessor. The front side of the 163-mm-long body is fully covered by a super-curved nanocrystal glass, which is engineered for more comfortable single-handed use and better protection from damaging drops. The redesigned iconic Eye of Muse is still an eye-catcher but creates greater symmetry and balance with the periscope camera relocated to the center, and the new pattern looks more modern and attractive. The Magic4 Ultimate also blends more streamlined styling into the new nanocrystal ceramic back, on which the runway-like protrusions neatly surround the camera bump.
The Magic4 Ultimate is equipped with a flagship-level, HDR10+ OLED display supporting the best-in-class color accuracy. It has a resolution of 1312×2848 pixels (around 460ppi density) and allows users to view pictures and videos with sharp details. The display also realizes the combination of LTPO-based 1~120Hz adaptive refresh rate and 1920Hz PWM dimming technology, which provides double-edged benefits – better eye protection and power saving by switching the refresh rate to the lowest possible when displaying static content.
On top of these, HONOR, together with Pixelworks, enables premium viewing experiences leveraging technologies such as “Always-on HDR” and MEMC (Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation). Powered by the dedicated display processor, the Magic4 Ultimate supports on-the-fly conversion of SDR videos to HDR quality and intelligent increasing video frame rate to eliminate motion blur, leading to a more vivid and fluid display.
Gaming: Ultra-smooth, realistic experience
The fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine is designed to push the limit of mobile gaming experience. It features more than 50 enhancements, in which technologies such as “Adreno Frame Motion Engine” and “Variable Rate Shading Pro” can effectively alleviate the GPU load, thus improving frame rate, picture clarity and power consumption while gaming.
The powerful engine is well complemented by the latest GPU Turbo X technology. By implementing the mobile gaming-oriented “AI Super Rendering” and fully taking the advantage of multiprocessor synergy, the upgraded GPU Turbo X can highly improve the graphic processing efficiency and also elevate the gaming performance. Consequently, we can play the graphically demanding game titles with less power but without compromising the visual quality.
In addition, the ultra-high-speed 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connection, paired with HONOR’s LINK Turbo X technology, provides a lag-free gaming experience.
Photography: Industry-leading performance
The biggest highlight of the Magic4 Ultimate is the versatile world-facing “Eye of Muse” system. Its flagship-grade main camera is powered by the Samsung ISOCELL GN2 and a customized 8P wide-angle lens set. With 50 million 1.4μm-sized pixels and a large aperture of f/1.6, the default camera can take in more light and offers great low-light performance and dynamic range.
To better restore what you see, the Magic4 Ultimate adds another 50MP camera, especially for spectral enhancement, with which it can reproduce more accurate colors, textures and real-light and shadow effects.
Below is a good example of how the Magic4 Ultimate restored the color on the glass and retained the decorative details without overexposing them.
The above image was shot in default mode. The colors of lights, plants and flowers are very close to reality and the dynamic range is well balanced, retaining good details in the indoor areas.
In addition, the rear camera system includes a 3.5x optical zoom periscope camera and a 126-degree ultrawide camera. The two 64MP auxiliary cameras are located close to the main camera, forming a triangular arrangement that is designed to facilitate the implementation of HONOR’s “Ultra Fusion Photography”.
The technology provides an innovative approach for cameras to work together, thus maximizing image quality by fully utilizing the strength of different lens modules. As shown below, in the overlapped zoom range, the process has two steps. First, multiple frames shot by each camera are merged, respectively, and then the resulting images are further aligned and combined into a single photo.
HONOR’s Fusion Photography Technology Fits into Magic4 Ultimate’s Impressive Zoom Range
Benefiting from the enhancement of “Ultra Fusion Photography”, we can capture moments more sharply and clearly than ever. The photo below presents clear details of the leaves in the foreground and the building at the far end.
When working alone, the ultrawide and periscope cameras also show great performance. The former has a 7P lens set supporting a 126° field of view and is among the best choices for grand landscape photography. It also incorporates two pieces of the free-form lens, which significantly improve edge distortion. Below is a photo shot at 15 mm equivalent focus length where the straight lines on the wall look quite natural.
With the support of autofocus, the ultrawide camera can also be used for close-up shots, allowing you to click stunning photos of flowers as shown below.
The periscope design supports up to 100x hybrid zoom capability, making it a perfect fit for long-distance shots. Below is a photo captured at the 7x zoom level. It still retains rich details while minimizing the noise and the words on the poster are quite readable.
The camera system is not only a real success in daylight conditions but its performance in low-light environments is also great, and this is largely due to the adoption of the independent AI ISP. The customized chipset has up to 28.8TOPS computing power and supports the nearly real-time process of a burst of raw images at different exposure settings, leading to a greater night photography experience, including the support of 4K Super Night mode videos.
The image below was captured using night mode, where the pink light falling on the glass ceiling and tree leaves were accurately reproduced with little noise in the sky area. Thanks to the support of OIS optical stabilization for both the wide and telephoto cameras, it is much easier for us to shoot great night photos, no more worrying about unintentionally blurring them with a hand jitter.
The camera system has more to offer. To suppress lens flare and improve the image quality against the sunlight, HONOR applies the super anti-flare coating technology to the lens surface. Besides, the flicker sensor and 8×8 dToF sensing camera are preserved. The latter can effectively help improve the autofocus speed and accuracy, especially in low light. Combining with the large aperture of the main camera, it also brings better bokeh effects like in the picture below which presents a gradually blurring foreground and background.
The Magic4 Ultimate also provides impressive video capabilities. Thanks to the “Dual Chain Computational Photography & Videography” algorithm, we are allowed to capture high-quality photos while recording a 4K video with little compromise. The AI-based “Magic Take” function can automatically identify highlight moments when recording and transform them into short clips or dramatic pictures. Moreover, the Magic4 Ultimate further extends its 4K 60FPS video capability to the Night and Magic-Log mode, and the outputs are relatively smooth even when you are moving.
Moving on to the front side, the dual-camera system sits in a hole-punch cutout on the top left. It consists of a 12MP selfie camera and a 3D depth camera primarily for face unlocking. The former features a 100° field of view to make taking a group selfie much easier. It is enhanced by a number of AI-based features such as portrait beautification, background blurring and anti-distortion, and also supports 4K video shooting.
High security and long battery Life
The Magic4 Ultimate also makes decent improvements in security and battery life. For a safer but more convenient user experience, HONOR not only upgrades the fingerprint solution from optical to more accurate ultrasonic technology but also applies an independent security chip to provide hardware-level protection. All of this, combined with the “Dual TEE Security OS”, makes the Magic4 Ultimate a highly secure flagship model.
Moreover, HONOR introduced a practical feature, “AI Privacy Call”, to address the pain point of sound leakage when making a phone call in crowds. The new feature supports intelligent sound direction control, and can significantly reduce sound leakage while maintaining a clear voice.
To further ease battery anxiety, HONOR increases the fast-charging speed with the support of the 100W wired charging. Tests show the Magic4 Ultimate’s 4,600mAh battery can be charged to 100% within half an hour.
As a top flagship offering, the Magic4 Ultimate is armed with a valuable package of hardware components and features, with the camera system being the biggest bright spot. Although there is space for improvement, such as a smoother preview when switching the lens, its overall performance is rated as the best by DXOMARK. By combining the evolving “HONOR Image Engine” and powerful AI ISP, the Magic series is set to fully harness the power of AI and push the boundaries of mobile photography.
LCD, which once used to dominate smartphone displays, is now gradually giving way to OLED. Widely recognized as a more advanced display, OLED has steadily increased its share in the small panel market for the past several years. However, in 2022, the pace of OLED’s growth is likely to slow down. According to Counterpoint Research’s Smartphone Sales Forecast by Display Type, the share of OLED in smartphone display types globally is expected to increase only by 2% points YoY in 2022 to 44%. It had risen by 10% points YoY in 2021 to 42%.
This slowdown in OLED penetration is directly connected to the downward pressure on the average selling price (ASP) of 5G smartphones. Although prices of key components such as chipsets are rising due to supply shortages, OEMs have been forced to lower the shipping prices of finished products due to intensifying competition in the market and stagnation in consumption caused by the ongoing global economic slowdown. Therefore, manufacturers desperately looking to cut costs appear to be compromising on the display. According to Counterpoint’s Handset Model Tracker, the OLED adoption rate for 5G smartphones in Q4 2021 was 80%, a YoY decrease of 2% points. This is particularly noteworthy considering that 5G models have mainly driven the expansion of OLED adoption so far.
The recent demand-supply and price trends of OLED panels themselves have also become obstacles. OLED is divided into relatively inexpensive ‘rigid OLED’ and high-end ‘flexible OLED’ that has increased flexibility and strength. In the low-end to mid-end smartphones, the panel that can directly replace LCD is rigid OLED, but its global supply has now reached its limit. This is because display makers are focusing their investments on flexible OLEDs instead of the low-margin rigid OLEDs. On the other hand, the price of flexible OLED, which is preferred for premium models, dropped so much around 2020 that its adoption rate soared. Recently, however, even this downward trend in prices has come to a standstill.
Still, from a long-term perspective, the trend of OLEDs taking the place of LCDs in smartphones does not seem to change. This is closely related to the 5G market growth. Since 5G phones consume battery faster than LTE phones, OLEDs are preferred for them as they are more power-efficient than LCDs under normal conditions. Comparing smartphones sold during Q4 2021 by network type, the adoption ratio for LCD and OLED panels in LTE smartphones was 82:18, but for 5G smartphones, the ratio was 20:80.
In conclusion, the shift to OLEDs in smartphones will continue in the long term, but its pace will depend on various factors — recovery of the consumer economy, supply stabilization of key parts and reduction of flexible OLED prices. As the above conditions are unlikely to be met in 2022, it will be difficult for many smartphone manufacturers to aggressively expand OLED adoption in the near term.
After a tough 2020 where annual smartphone sales shrank by 15%, Q1 2021 looks promising. Our weekly counts hint at a 15-20% bump from last year – very positive even considering the weakened Q1 2020 affected by pre-COVID jitters.
At the high-end there has been record buying of iPhones and strong comparative YoY performance of the Galaxy S21 v S20 Series, lifting the premium market significantly. On the low, the budget segment has remained resilient, growing its share by 15% last year to account for one in every five devices sold. So far this year, prepaid device sales have been ticking up on stimulus buying and aggressive carrier promotions. Tax refunds and third round stimulus checks will only boost demand moving forward.
The supply side is where the issues lie and we believe the budget segment is most at risk based on a number of factors:
LG’s departure is a blow for many prepaid carriers and retailers. Korea’s ‘other’ brand accounted for one-third of all US devices sold in the $100-$250 wholesale price band last year. Others will try to fill the vacuum, but the OEM was a channel favorite, especially amongst prepaid carriers which heavily promoted LG devices.
Our February channel checks show little wiggle room:
Prepaid channel reps see inventories as “tight but OK”. This could change quickly.
Prepaid channels are also experiencing increased foot traffic and declining inventories, with constraints for models such as the budget Samsung A11 and A21. LG’s Stylo 6 is low stock and continues to be the most popular model in prepaid.
Finally, Samsung and Apple have strong supply chains with suppliers that prioritize deliveries, especially in the case of Apple. In a situation where components are in short supply, this means others will lose out – and those vendors are likely to be makers of cheaper devices.
The looming component shortage which is impacting the broader market is already affecting budget segments. Lower-end 4G application processor chip supply has been constrained on and off since last year and tightness is expected to continue through the end of 2021.
Magnifying the problem, this year’s budget phones increasingly resemble last year’s premium, boosting the need for other key components – especially those in acute shortage like CMOS image sensors (CIS) used in cameras, display driver ICs (DDIC) which control the pixels in displays, and power management ICs (PMIC) which manages power for various applications.
The best-selling LG Stylo 6 is a good example. At around $250 retail, it sports a triple rear camera setup with 13MP main and massive 6.8” screen – specs consumers prioritize when shopping for a device. The draw on CIS, DDICs, and PMICs is high for this type of smartphone and may not be sustainable, resulting in abnormally low inventory across prepaid channels.
Globally, we saw inventory levels over the last three months of 2020 trend downward – opposite of what has happened in the past and signaling an overall tightening of supply. If the decline continues through Q1, it could spell bad news for the US prepaid market which could be more severely impacted than others.
Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.
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