Apple is stirring the waters of tech innovation, this time in display manufacturing.
In a bold move to increase control over a crucial component supply, Apple is getting hands-on in the production of next-generation displays, reports Nikkei Asia. This strategic shift from the iPhone maker’s usual approach involves bypassing traditional display makers and conducting a vital part of the manufacturing process itself.
Apple has apparently heavily invested in the development of micro-LED displays over the last decade. These displays are less energy-demanding, can be made thinner than the current state-of-the-art OLED displays, and even offer better outdoor brightness. They also have potential applications on curved or foldable surfaces.
The crux of this new manufacturing approach lies in the “mass transfer” step, which involves placing tens of thousands of tiny micro-LED chips onto substrates. According to sources with direct knowledge of the project, this crucial operation is set to occur at Apple’s secretive R&D facilities in the Longtan District in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan.
Over the years, Apple has faced an increased dependence on Samsung Display for its screens since it introduced OLED displays in its iPhone in 2017. The move to micro-LED technology seems poised to reduce that reliance, offering Apple a stronger price-bargaining position with other suppliers, such as LG Display and China’s BOE Technology, who are currently lagging in technology and quality stability.
In collaboration with suppliers like ams-Osram for micro-LED components, LG Display for substrates, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. for 12-inch wafers, Apple is paving the way for innovative display technology. Furthermore, the report says Apple has developed some of the production equipment to better control the mass transfer process.
Apple’s journey into micro-LED technology is still at the sample stage. However, Nikkei Asia claims there are tentative plans to introduce the screen technology on its Apple Watch first, aiming to have it ready by 2025. While this strategy comes with its fair share of challenges, experts believe Apple’s ultimate plan is to incorporate the technology into its key revenue source – the iPhone.
Micro-LED technology’s versatile applications could revolutionize the industry, potentially offering features such as fingerprint recognition or health-related sensing functions on wearable products. Eric Chiou, a veteran display analyst at TrendForce, suggests that these technologies can be used on foldable smartphones, hinting at the possible future of iPhones featuring these display technologies.
As Tech News Outlet reported, on Tuesday (May 16, 2023), Apple announced a suite of innovative software features and tools to enhance the user experience for those with cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility disabilities.
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