New Apple patent backs company's interest in micro-LED for future devices

Posted:
in Apple Watch
An Apple patent application published on Tuesday backs the company's apparent interest in using micro-LED technology in future products, one possibility being the Apple Watch.




The application, discovered by AppleInsider, was most recently submitted in November 2015, but is a continuation of another application dating back to April that year. Titled Micro device with stabilization post, the document describes a away of stabilizing LEDs and microchips on a carrier substrate so they're able to be transferred to another substrate.

Notably the patent makes direct reference to LuxVue, a company specializing in micro-LED technology that Apple bought in 2014. One of the credited inventors -- Andreas Bibl -- was the CEO of that firm, and was recently credited on another Apple micro-LED patent involving wearable technology.

Both patents may support rumors that Apple is working on a micro-LED display for a future version of the Apple Watch, potentially shipping as soon as the second half of 2017.

That exact timeline may be unrealistic, since micro-LED has yet to feature in any shipping consumer products, and it's currently difficult to manufacture panels of any significant size. Cost is another factor, as even the OLED panels used for the first-generation Watch are more expensive than conventional LCDs -- Apple isn't expected to use OLED on iPhones until next year.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,667member
    Sounds good but why stop at the watch?   
  • Reply 2 of 9
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    wizard69 said:
    Sounds good but why stop at the watch?   
    Because for now, that's the only realistic one because of costs (due to low yields).
    Initially, OLED screens were very small too (and leds too).
    levilolliver
  • Reply 3 of 9
    davendaven Posts: 487member
    What advantages does micro LED have over OLED?
  • Reply 4 of 9
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    daven said:
    What advantages does micro LED have over OLED?
    Thinner, lighter, more accurate color gamut, less power. It literally takes LED and the light source and combines them into a single layer. Until now, LED has always been 2 sheets, LED and under that the light source. Where OLED was single layer, but had more issues with accuracy. I'm not sure how it compares to OLED though other than OLED is 'organic' and has a much smaller 'lifespan' where it will have high color accuracy. Out the gate, right now, OLED can have very high accuracy, but it's known to lose that over time. Where LED is a lot less likely to wear out.
    edited June 2016 lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 9
    wizard69 said:
    Sounds good but why stop at the watch?   
    Sony went way beyond a watch here:
    https://blog.sony.com/press/sony-redefines-high-end-visual-display-technology-with-a-new-canvas-for-creativity/


    BTW, I saw the Sony Canvas 32' x 9' microLED display at InfoComm. It was pretty effin' awesome. Much better than the current crop of fine pitch LED out there now (which ain't half bad). Apple would do well to put one of them in their stores instead of the fine pitch LED -- assuming the Canvas becomes an actual shipping product.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,039member
    daven said:
    What advantages does micro LED have over OLED?
    Far brighter/lower power as I understand it.  The key issue is that Apple need so many of them for iPhone shipment volume.  Literally hamstrung by their own success.
    daven
  • Reply 7 of 9
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,039member
    wizard69 said:
    Sounds good but why stop at the watch?   
    Sony went way beyond a watch here:
    https://blog.sony.com/press/sony-redefines-high-end-visual-display-technology-with-a-new-canvas-for-creativity/


    BTW, I saw the Sony Canvas 32' x 9' microLED display at InfoComm. It was pretty effin' awesome. Much better than the current crop of fine pitch LED out there now (which ain't half bad). Apple would do well to put one of them in their stores instead of the fine pitch LED -- assuming the Canvas becomes an actual shipping product.
    Aren't these panels quite low resolution? Can they get the contrast to scale down with Watch or iPhone?  Can MicroLED even achieve the pixel density Apple needs?
  • Reply 8 of 9
    davendaven Posts: 487member
    adrayven said:
    daven said:
    What advantages does micro LED have over OLED?
    Thinner, lighter, more accurate color gamut, less power. It literally takes LED and the light source and combines them into a single layer. Until now, LED has always been 2 sheets, LED and under that the light source. Where OLED was single layer, but had more issues with accuracy. I'm not sure how it compares to OLED though other than OLED is 'organic' and has a much smaller 'lifespan' where it will have high color accuracy. Out the gate, right now, OLED can have very high accuracy, but it's known to lose that over time. Where LED is a lot less likely to wear out.
    Thanks for the information. It adds a lot to the story.
    edited June 2016
  • Reply 9 of 9
    mcdave said:
    wizard69 said:
    Sounds good but why stop at the watch?   
    Sony went way beyond a watch here:
    https://blog.sony.com/press/sony-redefines-high-end-visual-display-technology-with-a-new-canvas-for-creativity/


    BTW, I saw the Sony Canvas 32' x 9' microLED display at InfoComm. It was pretty effin' awesome. Much better than the current crop of fine pitch LED out there now (which ain't half bad). Apple would do well to put one of them in their stores instead of the fine pitch LED -- assuming the Canvas becomes an actual shipping product.
    Aren't these panels quite low resolution? Can they get the contrast to scale down with Watch or iPhone?  Can MicroLED even achieve the pixel density Apple needs?
    Sorry for late reply--just now saw your questions...

    I brought up the Sony example in response to wizard69 asking "why stop at the watch." Obviously, the Sony screen is an extreme example, far away from any mobile device, but I thought mentioning it injected an interesting perspective. And it is pretty amazing looking. BTW, Sony calls it "Crystal LED," which may be a variant of microLED.

    Relatively speaking, for a 32' x 9' screen designed to be viewed at some distance, the resolution is quite high. The pixel pitch is about 1.2-1.5mm, the same as other fine-pitch LED on the market these days. For comparison, the typical outdoor LED billboard pitch is much larger, maybe 15-20mm (they are of course designed to be viewed from 100's of feet away).

    Sony says the actual size of the light source is about .003 sq. mm, compared to ~1 sq. mm of other fine-pitch LED displays. I'm wondering if that is a typo because the pixel size of the current OLED Apple Watch is 0.087. If true, that makes the Sony "CLED" even smaller, and they were bright enough for a large format screen! So I'm thinking it is probably safe to say that microLED can achieve the desired density, or Apple would not have acquired Luxvue.
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