As the world waits patiently to find out whether Apple’s next iPhone will feature an OLED screen, the company is researching an even more groundbreaking display technology for future products. According to Digitimes, the Cupertino, California company is currently experimenting with micro LED displays in the hopes of beginning “trial production” on a limited scale at the end of the year.
While Digitimes’ report does not mention what devices would receive the technology first, some speculated years ago that the company would look to micro LED to power the Apple Watch’s display. Instead, the company turned to OLED, which allows for greater color contrast and is more efficient than conventional LED screens, as it allows pixels to be powered independently without a backlight.
Micro LED looks to be even more efficient than both of those technologies, however, and has yet to launch in any consumer device. Apple acquired a developer of such panels, Luxvue, in 2014. At the time, Luxvue was promoting micro LED as a technology that could deliver nine times the brightness of conventional LEDs — which are already considerably brighter than OLED displays — while simultaneously drawing less power from a device’s battery.
The energy benefits make it clear why Apple might opt to use micro LED in its watches down the road, as the extremely small batteries in wearables make longevity on a charge a top priority. However, do not expect to see these kinds of displays hitting the market very soon.
For one, this is an unverified rumor about an emerging technology, so it would be wise not to take it at face value. Further, another report from the Taipei Times in March quotes industry analyst Annabelle Hsu as saying micro LED likely will not become commercially viable until 2020.
Also, Apple has never demonstrated a propensity to jump on hot and unproven technologies before its competitors — as evidenced by its slow adoption of OLED displays, while many other phone makers have been using them for more than five years. There is a first time for everything, of course, and the fact still remains Apple purchased a company that specializes in the technology — so there is a clear ambition to one day deliver micro LED to the masses. But that day appears still a ways off.