Apple has been investing more and more in research and development of MicroLED display technology. The company’s intention is to gain autonomy and rely less on Samsung Display, which currently produces the majority of iPhone screens and maintains leadership in the OLED sector.
Apple has already designed some of the production equipment, as well as partnering with LG Display for TSMC silicon wafers and substrates.
MicroLED has individually illuminated pixels, offering the deep black and high contrast levels of OLED. But unlike OLED, it’s not an organic material, which means it’s not susceptible to issues like burn-in. Panels will also be thinner and more energy efficient. The miniature size of MicroLED chips could also allow the displays to be more effectively combined with other sensors, such as high-fidelity under-display fingerprint scanners, among other benefits such as adaptation to curved or folding surfaces.
It’s worth remembering that the screen is often the most expensive single component of an iPhone. So there are huge cost-saving opportunities if Apple can own the display technology itself, rather than relying on Samsung’s intellectual property.
However, manufacturing MicroLED displays is complex and some challenges remain to increase production. The Nikkei portal says that Apple’s MicroLED technology is still in the sampling phase, with the aim of shipping MicroLED on the Apple Watch by 2025. The US company’s MicroLED research facilities are in the US, Taiwan and Japan in an initial expenditure of US$ 1 billion.
It is very likely that the Apple Watch will come first, as it is easier to make MicroLED screens in smaller sizes. But experts estimate that the Apple achieve this success within five yearswhen it will be ready to mass manufacture MicroLED screens in screen sizes appropriate for use in iPhones.