A Nikkei Asia based Rumor claims that Apple will manufacture its own microLED Displays for Apple Watch in the 2025 timeline
According to a new supply chain report this morning, Apple will be getting involved in the mass production of next-generation displays to lessen its reliance on rival Samsung and increase its own control over the supply of a key component.
According to Nikkei Asia, taking a hands-on approach to production is a stark contrast to the iPhone maker's usual approach of providing display makers with screen specifications and leaving the actual production to them.
Apple has spent heavily on the development of microLED displays over the past decade and once production starts, it intends to perform the critical "mass transfer" step of the manufacturing process itself, according to sources involved in the project.
Displays are one of the most expensive components in all of Apple's devices. Since the American company first introduced OLED displays on its iPhone in 2017, its reliance on Samsung Display for the screens has only grown. To reduce that dependence and gain price-bargaining power, Apple tried to bring in other suppliers, namely LG Display and China's display champion BOE Technology, but they lag the South Korean leader in terms of technology and quality stability, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
"Apple has spent at least $1 billion on the R&D and samples for microLED technologies in the past nearly 10 years," said one of the people who has been directly involved in the project for years. "It wants to secure more control over the next-gen display technologies for its future products."
In addition to designing the driver integrated circuits for the micro-LED screens, Apple even designed some of the production equipment itself to better control the mass transfer process, according to two of the people with direct knowledge of the matter.
"It doesn't mean that Apple will always do the mass transfer on its own. But it shows how determined Apple is to allocate resources to have more control over next-gen display technologies in its own hands," one of the sources said.
Apple's micro-LED technology is still at the sample stage, and the company plans to introduce the screen technology on its Apple Watch first, with a tentative target to have the technology ready by 2025, five people said. However, there are still many challenges for mass production, they added.
"Apple's ultimate plan is to introduce the technologies on its iPhone, which is its key revenue source and has much bigger volume, to justify the investments over the years," said one of the sources who has seen samples of the company's micro-LED screen. For more, read the full Nikkei Asia report.
Apple acquired LuxVue, an advanced microLED company, back in May 2014. While it could be reasonable to see Apple develop and manufacture microLED for certain products, it's very difficult to imagine Apple expanding it to the iPhone and iPad where Apple suppliers Samsung and LG Display are investing heavily in new and advanced display technology for Apple devices.
We reported this morning that Samsung acquired eMagin for their advanced OLEDoS technology for Apple's XR Headset displays. Apple suppliers would cease display development and investments immediately if they knew that Apple was planning to eliminate them as suppliers. In that light, the Nikkei report is a bit of a stretch.