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The recent industry push to improve device displays with a narrower bezel and full-screen format could provide a fresh set of legs for a global smartphone market that has seen growth slow in recent months.

According to a new report from TrendForce’s WitsView division, global smartphone shipments began to slow in the first half of 2017 after gaining some mild momentum last year. Research Director Boyce Fan noted “device vendors’ inventories began to pile up in the first quarter of this year.” In China, the shipment slowdown was exacerbated by a reduction in smartphone purchase subsidies from telcos, Fan added.

WitsView has found a shift from a 16:9 aspect ratio to 18:9 – the latter of which is known as a full-screen format – has arisen as a response among top tier smartphone brands to woo in customers with a better viewing experience. The most recent examples of this came in the form of flagship devices from LG and Samsung, specifically the G6 and Galaxy S8, respectively.

The move also comes as the proportion of video content viewed on smartphones continues to rise. In its annual Mobilty Report released this week, Ericsson forecasted mobile video traffic will grow by around 50 percent annually through 2022 to account for nearly 75 percent of all mobile data traffic.

WitsView said its research indicates most smartphone brands – including Apple – are aiming to release new models with the improved aspect ratio in the second half of this year, which is also when the mass production and shipment of 18:9 panels are expected to ramp up. The firm noted it’s still uncertain whether suppliers will be able to meet demand for 18:9 panels, but said device models with an 18:9 aspect ratio or higher are estimated to account for around 10 percent of the global smartphone shipments this year. That figure could jump to more than a third (37 percent) in 2018 once Apple makes the transition with its iPhone, WitsView indicated.

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