On Thursday display analyst Ross Young claimed that a next generation of Apple Watch Ultra with a microLED display will be postponed to late 2025, according to a MacRumors report. The report further noted that the Apple Watch Ultra is expected to be the first Apple device to adopt a microLED display and believes that Apple is planning to bring the technology to the iPhone and other devices in the future," even though Apple is dumping microLED for the next-generation iPads for two-stack OLED displays. Apple's display partners have to spend incredible amounts of money to satisfy Apple's two-stack OLED displays and so, at least for their high-end iPads, it's highly unlikely for Apple to once again return to microLED.
Sticking to microLED for the Apple Watch Ultra, microLED makes sense considering that its power consumption if only about one-tenth of LCD and half of OLED, according to a United Daily News report posted earlier this week.
Taiwan's United Daily News covered the creation of a newly formed elite microLED team that was announced this week. Taiwan Display Industry Union (TDUA) has joined hands with Taiwan Display and Application Industry Association, Taiwan Display Materials and Components Industry Association, Taiwan Electronic Equipment Association and four other major associations that includes AUO and Innolux that are known to be Apple suppliers. More than a dozen industry players, under the leadership of Panel Shuanghu, jointly established the "Micro LED Elite Team" and announced that 2023 will be the first year of mass production of Micro LED displays in Taiwan.
The members of the MicroLED elite team will comprehensively accelerate the implementation of innovative technologies in the future, building Taiwan into an important base for the global MicroLED industry, and seizing business opportunities with a global output value of up to 600 billion yuan (US$86 billion) by 2030.
Ke Furen, chairman of TDUA and general manager of AU Optronics, said that if microLED wants to achieve both high brightness and high resolution, it is almost difficult to achieve it only by individual industries alone, and it is necessary to integrate semiconductor, LCD, LED industry equipment, materials in order to achieve synergy in the shortest possible time. For more on this, read the full UDN report here.
In a second report on this it was noted that "Chairman of Taiwan Display Industry Federation and General Manager of AU Optronics, Ke Furen, said that many companies have been actively preparing for microLED mass production this year, including wearable and TV products, and the products will be launched soon, which means that production capacity preparations and equipment are in place."
In a third report on this it was noted that AUO will be the best performer and be the first to mass-produce a 1.39" smart display equipped with microLED displays. In contrast, the Apple Watch Ultra is currently provides a 1.92" display.
Industry insiders pointed out that microLED is becoming a new phenomenon in the display industry, mainly because of its use of inorganic materials, simple structure, low power consumption, high brightness, ultra-high resolution and color saturation, fast response speed, ultra-power saving, and long life.
Technically, to transfer thousands of microLEDs from the sapphire wafer to the second-degree mass transfer had become the primary problem to be overcome in the manufacture of microLED displays. After years of cooperation between LED factories, panel manufacturers and equipment manufacturers, it has gradually increased the yield rate of mass transfer, making the mass production of microLED feasible. AUO's ten years of hard work has gradually established a complete Micro LED ecosystem.
In total, there are three groups focused on microLED displays. The second and third groups are from China. One includes BOE, Huacan Optoelectronics, BOE Pixey and BOE Crystal Technology. The third team includes China Star Optoelectronics, Sanan Optoelectronics and Xinying Display.
Patently Apple reported back in May 2020 that Apple made a massive investment in a new plant in Taiwan that will make both mini and micro-LED displays. It's clear that Apple has been working on this project for years now and with AUO now considered the most advanced manufacturer in this Elite Team, could the Apple Watch Ultra be ready for 2024 as Mark Gurman forecast. Or will the project extend to 2025 as Ross Young now predict?
With the Elite team's production going full tilt later this year, the sooner that they're able to produce a microLED display for the Apple Watch Ultra, the faster the Elite team will be able to advance over their Chinese rivals.