Apple rumored to have ordered small batch of Micro LED screens for testing

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 2017
A supply chain report suggests that Apple is already looking beyond OLED for future products, with the company said to be taking steps for trial production of Micro LED screens in the second half of 2017.




A report on Wednesday from DigiTimes, citing sources in the supply chain, reports that a small batch of micro LED screens will be produced in Taoyuan, Taiwan for evaluation for future inclusion in Apple products.

Allegedly, the initiative is spearheaded by personnel and technologies gained from Apple's acquisition of LuxVue in May 2014. The company was rumored to be behind display technology used in Google Glass, and held the patent for a touch display that incorporates sensing technology embedded in a device's screen before it was transferred to Apple.

DigiTimes does generally provide accurate information from within Apple's supply chain, but has a poor track record for predicting Apple's future product plans.

Micro LED screens promise greater contrast, faster response times, and lower energy use as compared to LCD screens. The technology is oriented towards watch displays, and smartphones.

The first batch of chips is said to implement chip bonding onto a TFT substrate.

The technology was first developed in 2000. So far, technological issues in production have held up mass production and commercialization of the technology.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,805member
    Perhaps they could order thru Tony Fadell. 
  • Reply 2 of 22
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,324member
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    macpluspluspatchythepirate
  • Reply 3 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,805member
    melgross said:
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    There's a dozen or so companies involved with micro-LED development and it's being pumped as the next big thing for smartphone displays as well as watches and other wearables, HUD's, computer monitors, even TV's. Give it three years or so and I think you'll see it relatively common with several consumer devices using it. 
    edited May 2017
  • Reply 4 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,058member
    Micro LED screens promise greater contrast, faster response times, and lower energy use as compared to LCD screens. The technology is oriented towards watch displays, and smartphones.
    These are all good benefits, especially the lower energy use. OLED is very competent in all but energy use. I can't imagine how much better micro LED would be in image quality. I look forward to seeing them.

    But what I'd really like to see is a brighter display, or one much more legible in bright sunlight. My S2's display looks great in any light but most outdoor daylight and especially bright sunlight. It's legible but just barely. At over twice the nits of other Watches, it doesn't look like twice the brightness, and it's definitely washed out in daylight. 

    My abandoned Pebble's crude, ugly display was at least instantly legible in bright sunlight. Sucked everywhere else though.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    melgross said:
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    Do you think the Apple Watch would've been better served with an LCD?
  • Reply 6 of 22
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    These are probably for laptops or iPads.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    ireland said:
    These are probably for laptops or iPads.
    Eventually, but this is a tech that should start off on a small size and volume until it can be scaled up. Plus, the Apple Watch could still benefit from increased battery life and other display benefits.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,805member
    Soli said:
    ireland said:
    These are probably for laptops or iPads.
    Eventually, but this is a tech that should start off on a small size and volume until it can be scaled up. Plus, the Apple Watch could still benefit from increased battery life and other display benefits.
    Yeah, I see smartphones and wearables with it before larger display like laptops or tablets.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,911member
    I hope this technology becomes reliably and inexpensively built, and soon. It's our only real hope to get back what was lost when we abandoned CRTs. LCD sucks.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,324member
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    There's a dozen or so companies involved with micro-LED development and it's being pumped as the next big thing for smartphone displays as well as watches and other wearables, HUD's, computer monitors, even TV's. Give it three years or so and I think you'll see it relatively common with several consumer devices using it. 
    Yes, but all of that was in the back burner until Apple bought this company. Then, all of a sudden, they began to take it more seriously, because Apple did.

    there is no reason why this can't be used for large Tvs as well. It, in theory anyway, scales up very well.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 11 of 22
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,324member

    macgui said:
    Micro LED screens promise greater contrast, faster response times, and lower energy use as compared to LCD screens. The technology is oriented towards watch displays, and smartphones.
    These are all good benefits, especially the lower energy use. OLED is very competent in all but energy use. I can't imagine how much better micro LED would be in image quality. I look forward to seeing them.

    But what I'd really like to see is a brighter display, or one much more legible in bright sunlight. My S2's display looks great in any light but most outdoor daylight and especially bright sunlight. It's legible but just barely. At over twice the nits of other Watches, it doesn't look like twice the brightness, and it's definitely washed out in daylight. 

    My abandoned Pebble's crude, ugly display was at least instantly legible in bright sunlight. Sucked everywhere else though.
    OLED has a limited amount of brightness, because it's very sensitive to heat, which becomes more significant the brighter a display becomes. So it's kind of a limiting factor. microLED doesn't have the same sensitivity, and so, can be driven harder, just like regular LEDs. You'll never see a high brightness bulb made with OLEDs, but you could see one with MicroLED. Though it might be too expensive for that.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 12 of 22
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,324member

    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    Do you think the Apple Watch would've been better served with an LCD?
    It's an interesting question. Probably not. One major reason Apple gave for using it is that since the light is self generated, it doesn't need the backlight, which takes up room. As room is at a premium in the Watch, LCD was out because of that alone.

    but also, with a watch whose themes are mostly black, unless you choose a picture background for the display, the noted lower power usage as the display drops below an average of 50%, over LCD, helps battery life. In fact, I've found that battery life is dependent on which background you choose. A couple if hours difference, if you use the Watch a lot.

    oh, and while this has nothing to do with the discussion directly, talking about the battery life reminded me of something. I'm trying the app Cardiogram, which can take continuous reading of heart rate. It's part of a study being done. Normally, I get a good two days of battery, because I don't use the GPS all that much, though I keep the display at the brightest setting. Suddenly, after a half day, I'm getting notice that the battery is running out. It's because the two green LEDs on the back are on all the time, taking measurements. Wow! It didn't mention that. I just turned the continuous measurement function off for now.

    just shows that there are a lot of things that can significantly affect battery life.

    back to the discussion. MIcroLED is supposed to be noticeably more efficient than either OLED, or LCD, which is dependent on an led backlight, after all. LCD is inefficient because the backlight is on all the time, covers the entire screen, and needs to force its way through the polarized LCD, which cuts off a lot of the backlight.  Yet still, OLED is so inefficient (yes, it really is!) that even though it generates its light directly, it's still less bright than LCD. MIcroLED should be able to be made brighter than either.
    edited May 2017 patchythepirate
  • Reply 13 of 22
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,324member

    ireland said:
    These are probably for laptops or iPads.
    As we all know that smaller screens, just like smaller chips, can give better yields, the same thing should be true here, certainly in the beginning. I would be very surprised if this came out in an iPad or notebook first.

    in fact, Apple has a major problem here. How is this going to be marketed? If it's first on the Watch, but people believe it will be next in the phone, what happens to phone sales meanwhile? If they come out with it on the Watch and phone simultaneously, then what happens to iPad and notebook sales? And if they come out with it fro the Macbook Pro 15" model, what happens to iMac sales?

    this. is something they need to think about very carefully.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    melgross said:

    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    I really hope this works out. I don't like OLED. It's always seemed to be a stepping point beyond LCD, but without major advantages, and well behind other technologies that can replace it, if costs and manufacturing yields become good enough.

    microLED seems to one technology that needs enough money behind it to overcome these problems. If Apple is throwing that money in, then I've got hopes for it. If they think the ongoing R&D costs are too high, they will abandon it. That's what they do. I hope they see through to the end with these tests.
    Do you think the Apple Watch would've been better served with an LCD?
    It's an interesting question. Probably not. One major reason Apple gave for using it is that since the light is self generated, it doesn't need the backlight, which takes up room. As room is at a premium in the Watch, LCD was out because of that alone.

    but also, with a watch whose themes are mostly black, unless you choose a picture background for the display, the noted lower power usage as the display drops below an average of 50%, over LCD, helps battery life. In fact, I've found that battery life is dependent on which background you choose. A couple if hours difference, if you use the Watch a lot.

    oh, and while this has nothing to do with the discussion directly, talking about the battery life reminded me of something. I'm trying the app Cardiogram, which can take continuous reading of heart rate. It's part of a study being done. Normally, I get a good two days of battery, because I don't use the GPS all that much, though I keep the display at the brightest setting. Suddenly, after a half day, I'm getting notice that the battery is running out. It's because the two green LEDs on the back are on all the time, taking measurements. Wow! It didn't mention that. I just turned the continuous measurement function off for now.

    just shows that there are a lot of things that can significantly affect battery life.

    back to the discussion. MIcroLED is supposed to be noticeably more efficient than either OLED, or LCD, which is dependent on an led backlight, after all. LCD is inefficient because the backlight is on all the time, covers the entire screen, and needs to force its way through the polarized LCD, which cuts off a lot of the backlight.  Yet still, OLED is so inefficient (yes, it really is!) that even though it generates its light directly, it's still less bright than LCD. MIcroLED should be able to be made brighter than either.
    Not needing an extra backlight is certainly one benefit, but long before there was any buzz about an actual Apple Watch in the works I was saying n this very forum—which results in a lot of "no way" comments because Samsung was the only one using OLED tech for anything mass produced in CE—that Apple would likely use OLED because it's the best option for a watch. Yes, the themes are mostly black, but a big reason for that is, as you know, when the display is black it uses no power and the black is as true black as possible for a display so the border of the watch casing can look more seamless than with LCD, which allows for an aesthetic that is necessary for a watch to succeed.

    I predict that if we're going to see OLED in a future iPhone that we'll also see a UI that works to compliment the display's power needs, in much the same way as watchOS was designed. Even then, there are apps and webpages that will still be mostly white in color so I'm curious what the overall benefit will be for an iDevice.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    netroxnetrox Posts: 696member
    OLED is NOT power efficient if the display involves a lot of white color like a typical webpage or documents - it actually exceeds LCD's power use. That's where microLED comes in. It's much more efficient than OLED or LCD since it requires less energy to give off light compared to OLED.

     


  • Reply 16 of 22
    A fair amount of micro-LED in the news lately. Here's an article regarding Foxconn-Sharp interest :
    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2017/05/foxconn-sharp-to-acquire-a-us-micro-led-display-startup.html


    Micro-LED can certainly be scaled up. Consider Sony's CLEDIS (I saw their 30 foot wide screen--it was spectacular):
    https://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/cat-monitors/resource.latest.bbsccms-assets-cat-mondisp-latest-CLEDISLargeDisplaySolutionWide.shtml

    (For smaller displays, it may well be that mobile device size displays will come before TV size displays due to the particular manufacturing methods involved.)


    Here's a pretty good article comparing LCD-OLED-micro-LED:
    http://www.ledinside.com/news/2016/11/can_micro_led_challenge_lcd_and_oled_market_position
    Soli
  • Reply 17 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    Micro-LED can certainly be scaled up.
    Scaling isn't usually an issue, it's quantity that's an issue; and one of the reasons why Apple is often beaten to the punch by some low-volume device from a "me first" company after rumours start swirling that Apple is interested in a certain tech.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    Soli said:
    Micro-LED can certainly be scaled up.
    Scaling isn't usually an issue, it's quantity that's an issue; and one of the reasons why Apple is often beaten to the punch by some low-volume device from a "me first" company after rumours start swirling that Apple is interested in a certain tech.
    That's certainly true...
    I was just responding to some of the comments suggesting that micro-LED displays will first appear in smaller displays for whatever reason. The Sony example is there to say that huge displays already exist.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,461member
    Soli said:
    Micro-LED can certainly be scaled up.
    Scaling isn't usually an issue, it's quantity that's an issue; and one of the reasons why Apple is often beaten to the punch by some low-volume device from a "me first" company after rumours start swirling that Apple is interested in a certain tech.
    That's certainly true...
    I was just responding to some of the comments suggesting that micro-LED displays will first appear in smaller displays for whatever reason. The Sony example is there to say that huge displays already exist.
    Sure. I didn't mean for my comment to come across as a counter to your points.
    roundaboutnow
  • Reply 20 of 22
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 946member
    I think it's great if Apple could backup mLED production, that will at least gives Apple an early advantage as opposed to Samsung-monopolised OLED. mLED and OLED are similar in terms of their benefits in energy saving but unlike OLED, mLED has 30 times greater brightness, higher efficiency in Lux/Watt and longer lifespan.
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