updated 07:45 am EDT, Thu April 21, 2011
Sharp adds smartphone LCDs to TV factory
Sharp said Thursday that it was shifting some of the production at its second TV plant in Kameyama to smartphone and tablet displays. Both medium and small displays would be made side-by-side with TVs later this year. The development was coming along with a world-first use of new "oxide semiconductor material" for thin film transistor (TFT) LCDs that would shrink the transistors to allow much more light from a given pixel, leading to either a brighter mobile device display or lower power use for the same brightness.
The company wouldn't say what was happening with its empty first plant at Kameyama, which it cleared out after selling off TV building equipment. New tips given to Reuters, however, suggested the company was planning to use the vacated area for another mobile display production line.
Reasons weren't given for the switch for mobile. Sharp has its own Galapagos tablets and phones to support, but the production expansion came just after a rumor that Apple picked Toshiba over Sharp in a competition for iPhone display production. The switch at the Sharp plant to increase mobile production would partly contradict that rumor, especially as Sharp has been known for making 3.5-inch, 640x960 displays very close to those Apple uses for the iPhone 4.
Sharp's full customer list isn't known but is relatively specialized, such as the Meizu M9.
The Japanese firm, like most TV makers, has faced reduced demand for TV sets both through a sluggish economy as well as a heavily saturated market. Most buyers typically wait several years before upgrading sets and have been wary of 3D and other attempts to keep set prices high. Shifting some production away to mobile would help prevent plants and their workers from going underused.