For the first time, Apple Inc. is developing a new type of display for its mobile devices, which would make devices slimmer, less-power-hungry and brighter. Apple is manufacturing small number of screens for testing purpose at its secret facility near its California headquarters.
The technology giant is investing significantly to manufacture next-generation MicroLED screens. These MicroLED screens are more difficult to manufacture than OLED displays. The company almost stopped the production so OLED displays a year ago. Engineers have since been doing progress and the technology is now at a developed stage. However, consumers will probably have to wait for few years before seeing the results.
The company has further designed chips running its mobile devices for some years. The company’s move into display showcases long-term potential to hurt range of suppliers from screen manufacturers such as Japan Display Inc., LG Display, Samsung Electronics Co., which manufacture chip-screen interface. Taking control of MicroLED technology is likely to help Apple stand out in maturing smartphone market as well as outgun competitors such as Samsung, which have been able to tout superior screens. Every company can buy LCD or OLED displays however, only Apple could own MicroLED.
Mass production MicroLEDs will need new manufacturing equipment. By the time the technology will gain traction in the market, some other might supplant it. On the other hand, Apple is likely to outsource manufacturing of MicroLED technology to reduce the risk of affecting its bottom line with producing snafus. The facility in California is too small for the mass production of MicroLEDs however, company wants to keep proprietary technology away from its partners as long as possible.
Currently, smartphones and other gadgets fundamentally use off-the-shelf display technology. The Apple watch display is manufactured by LG Display. Apple’s first OLED screen phone, iPhone X uses Samsung technology. Apple has for years standardized iPhone screens for color accuracy. However, this is the first time Apple is designing screens itself. Approximately 300 engineers are working at a 62000-square-foot development facility in California, regarding designing and manufacturing MicroLED screens to utilize in future products. The facility also consists of a special area for the intricate procedure of growing LEDs.
In late 2017, for the first time, engineers managed to produce fully functional MicroLED screens for future Apple Watches through which the company aims to manufacture new technology available first in its wearable computers. The latest MicroLED Apple Watch is not fully functional wearable until the screen portion is connected to an external computer board. However, the screens are significantly brighter than current OLED screens. Engineers have a finer level of control over individual colors. Executives recently permitted continued development overcoming 2 years, with an aim of installing MicroLED screens in products. It is unlikely that this technology will influence iPhone for at least 3 to 5 years.
Elements of MicroLED
Manufacturing of MicroLED is extraordinary complex. MicroLEDs comprise millions of discrete pixels, on the basis of screen size. Each pixel has sub-pixels such as red, blue and green. All these tiny LEDs must be individually manufactured and calibrated. Each piece originates from ‘donor wafer’ and then transferred to third-party producers such as Osram Licht AG and Epistar Corp. however, has begun increasing its own LEDs to create in-house donor wafers. The growing procedure is carried put inside a clean room at Santa Clara facility.