Cell phone developments drive HB-LED sales

Mike Hatcher reports from the 2004 Strategies in Light conference on the market for HB-LEDs in mobile phones.

Jong-Je Jung, VP of development with South Korean company LG Innotek, described to delegates of the 2004 Strategies in Light conference the recent increase in production of GaN devices in Asia.

The primary reason, said Jung, is the strong demand for white and blue keypad backlighting in mobile phones. This represents the fastest-growing application sector in terms of units shipped - keypad backlights, for example, typically require 8-12 diodes.

However, falling prices are causing problems. "Price slide is a serious business issue," said Jung. While production volumes increased rapidly last year, severe competition in the sector saw prices drop more than 60% from 30 cents per blue keypad backlight LED to just 11 cents by the end of the year. In China, according to Jung, this figure has dropped as low as 7 cents.

Another key trend in the past year was the increasing use of LEDs for camera flash applications. Jung said that the proportion of camera-enabled phones sold will increase from an estimated 17% of total handset sales in 2003 to reach 28% this year. "In 2005, more than 90% of phones in Japan and Korea will be equipped with a camera," he added.

The development of more advanced light sensors used in cameras will also have an effect on the HB-LED market. Whereas a 300 kilopixel CCD sensor requires a minimum flash luminance of 1-2 lux at a distance of 3 m, a 1 megapixel sensor will need a 5 lux flash to illuminate the same distance. As consumers begin to demand more advanced camera performance from their phones, so the demands on LED performance will increase.

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