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Apple is developing its own Micro-LED displays at secret facility in California

Perhaps not the most surprising news, considering that Apple now pays billions for Samsung's OLED panels.

Published onMarch 19, 2018

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  • A report by Bloomberg suggests that Apple is working on developing its own Micro-LED displays.
  • Being able to manufacture its own displays could reduce its reliance on competitors like Samsung.
  • Samsung is the sole supplier of the iPhone X’s OLED display and is expected to supply Apple with around 180-200 million panels this year.

Apple is reportedly working on developing its own displays at a secret manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, California. This is according to Bloomberg who cited anonymous sources as saying the company is making “significant investment in the development of next-generation Micro-LED screens.”

If the report is true, it would be the first time that Apple has produced its own displays. Currently, Apple relies on the likes of Samsung, LG, and Sharp to provide the screens for its devices. This can leave Apple overly reliant on its competitors. Samsung in particular is the sole supplier of OLED screens for the iPhone X. We reported in December that according to industry sources, Samsung is expected to supply Apple with around 180 to 200 million flexible OLED displays in 2018. Given that Samsung makes around $110 for each OLED panel it sells to Apple, billions are at stake.

After the Bloomberg report was released today, shares in Samsung, as well as Sharp and LG, took a hit.

Micro-LED is likely to be the next big thing in display technology. Micro-LED displays are in many ways similar to OLED displays, using self-emitting diodes that don’t require back lighting, which enables deep blacks, high contrast ratios, and low power consumption. The big difference between Micro-LED and OLED is the material used to create the pixels, which is an inorganic gallium-nitride compound, as opposed to the organic compounds in OLED.

Bloomberg The Santa Clara location where Apple engineers are working on Micro-LED tech

Micro-LED displays could become hugely popular in the next few years thanks to the benefits they offer over OLED and LCD screens. Micro-LED screens are brighter and more compact than OLED, and also use less power to produce an equally bright screen, which could result in improved battery life for phones using the technology.

Additionally, the compact size of the LEDs used means that the technology could help manufacturers do things like embed fingerprint scanners into their screens. This is something that manufacturers have long struggled to do with OLED screens.

MicroLED explained: The next-gen display technology
not so micro-LED

The major drawback is that Micro-LED displays are currently much harder to produce than OLED displays. According to Bloomberg, while progress has been made by Apple in the development of these Micro-LED displays, “consumers will have to wait a few years before seeing the results.” The sources warned that Apple may even scrap the project entirely.

Apple’s production facility in California is too small to house a commercial display manufacturing operation. Reportedly, the facility can only manufacture a “handful” of complete Micro-LED Apple Watch displays at a time. It looks like Apple is looking to develop the tech in-house as much as possible, before it partners with other companies for commercialization. The Cupertino-based company took a similar approach with its A-series SoCs found in the iPhone and iPad.

Of course, Apple isn’t the only company betting big on Micro-LED. Samsung unveiled its “The Wall” TV earlier in the year. This is a 146-inch Micro-LED TV that Samsung expects to release to the public by the end of the year.

However, much like Apple, Samsung seems to be finding it difficult to master the technology and it recently signed an agreement with Chinese LED chip maker Sanan Optoelectronics to help with the commercialization of MicroLED TVs.

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