An OLED iPad Pro is on the horizon, and as per a supply chain-centric Korean news outlet, it will likely hit the shelves in 2024. According to a report from ETNews, Apple has started the prototype production of iPad models equipped with an OLED display, instead of an LCD or mini-LED panel.
Apple is reportedly eyeing “unrivaled image quality” with its OLED screen tablets that will most probably debut under the iPad Pro lineup about two years from now. Compared to an LCD panel, an OLED screen offers better contrast, higher color saturation, and deeper blacks complemented by a bump in brightness output.
However, Apple is not merely switching the inherent display technology on its upcoming tablets. The company, for the first time, will reportedly use a process called dry etching that involves chemically eliminating unnecessary elements from the display assembly. Thanks to the novel method, the underlying TFT circuit turns out to be thinner and lighter.
Apple could’ve theoretically used the tech for the only OLED-equipped products in its current lineup – the iPhones – but skipped the hassle because the small panel size would’ve meant ballooning the production costs. In comparison, the dry-etched OLED panel for the upcoming Apple-branded tablets is three times larger, claims the report.
Thanks to the dry etching technique for making OLED panels, Apple plans to make its tablets as light as possible. For reference, the current-gen iPad Pro rocking the 12.9-inch ProMotion panel tips the scales at 1.51 pounds. Additionally, Apple is also said to be working on special protective coatings for the OLED panels destined for the 2024 iPads. As for the suppliers, Samsung and LG are said to be in line for winning the plum Apple contract.
The tablet industry has already started warming up to the idea of OLED panels, but it’s not really a new trend. All the way back in 2011, Samsung put a Super AMOLED panel on the Galaxy Tab 7.7. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and Tab S 8.4 from 2014 also won acclaim for their OLED panels. Samsung even treated the budget Galaxy Tab S5e to a Super AMOLED panel in 2019. Of course, the latest crop of Samsung tablets such as the Galaxy Tab S8+ and its Ultra sibling also make the most of OLED display technology.
Apple, on the other hand, has remained loyal to LCD tech for years when it comes to iPads. Instead of upgrading the inherent display technology, the company kept itself busy with superficial tweaks such as slimming down the bezels and treating it to a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate perk that it markets as the ProMotion tech.
It was only in 2021 that Apple changed things up with the M1-powered iPad Pro, replacing the LCD display with a mini-LED panel. Even though it is fundamentally the LCD tech at play here, a mini-LED panel relies on thousands of miniaturized LEDs that create local dimming zones for more precise backlight control. A mini-LED panel, in a nutshell, mimics the qualities of an OLED without fundamentally being one.
The jump to an OLED panel will be more significant. Not only would it increase the raw display quality, but the benefits of dry etching would also mean the iPad rocking such a panel would also be thinner and lighter at the same time. And possibly, sturdier too. Apple is also rumored to migrate the MacBook line to an OLED panel in the future, as well, but there is no concrete timeline as to when that transition will happen.
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