Samsung Seeks to Join the Micro-LED Display Race along with Apple, Sony and Oculus
On April 20 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Korea's Deep Paranoia is Setting in as Apple Considers a Supply Shift to China and Apple Watch 3 Shifts to Micro-LED." The report noted that Apple may shift to micro-LED for Apple Watch 3. More importantly, the paranoia from the South Korean press mounted as they noted that "The damage is relatively not that serious due to a small quantity of Apple Watches. However, the problem becomes bigger when Apple decides to use micro-LED displays on its smartphones as well. Such precedent, Apple is highly likely to use a micro-LED display on its smartphones after testing the panel on the Apple Watch." Today we're learning that the scenario of Apple shifting to micro-LED for future iPhones and other devices has sent Samsung into high gear.
It's being reported by the Korean Herald today that Samsung is seeking to acquire Taiwan's PlayNitide, a micro-LED maker for an estimated $150 million. The report notes that "Apple is reportedly considering using the display for its new devices, including Apple Watch, and ultimately for the iPhone."
Yet it still feels like hysteria from Korea. There's no proof of such a move by Apple is taking place at the moment and new display suppliers like China's BOE and Foxconn are ramping up production hoping to gain contracts for Apple's OLED needs for future iPhones.
Last February Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple could use a Micro-LED Display for a Future VR Headset." Our report covered an EETimes report that noted that micro-LED could be used for "direct projection displays" that would include Augmented and Virtual Reality applications like a headset.
Apple is not alone with its interest in micro-LEDs. According to OLED-Info, in 2016 Oculus acquired InfiniLED, another micro-LED startup. Sony is also developing micro-LED displays. So Samsung's race to gain a micro-LED company may be for a future Gear VR headset not requiring a smartphone as its main display. Industry players believe that micro-LED's in larger formats could be commercialized by 2020.
Where the report got interesting is that they noted that Samsung may be considering the technology for next-gen TVs. If displays the size of TVs could eventuallly use micro-LED display technology in the future, then would an iPhone with a micro-LED down the road sound all that farfetched?
For now it appears that a future Apple Watch may be the first win for micro-LED displays. Yet the bigger move could be reserved for future AR/AR headsets. Whether that means dedicated displays for devices like the Oculus or via smartphones like Samsung's Gear VR is unknown at this time as is how Apple will decide to apply it in a future headset.
Considering that the smartphone industry is only shifting hard to OLED starting this year, it's very difficult to see micro-LEDs becoming the display of choice for smartphones anytime in the near future. Yet the rumbling from the Korean tech press of late is definitely showing us that micro-LEDs have caught the attention of Samsung who is paranoid of any advantage Apple may gain over them in mobile devices.
If Samsung now aims to enter the race to develop micro-LED displays, then we know that there's a movement behind the scenes that this is a trend in the making. Samsung works with Oculus and so this is another clue that headsets may indeed be where this technology debuts big time.
The good news is that Apple saw that trend emerging as far back as 2014 if not earlier.
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