Apple and TSMC starting Apple Watch MicroLED display mass production later this year

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited April 5
Apple's work on developing MicroLED panels is slowly nearing mass production, according to the report, by partnering with TSMC to manufacture small panels for use in the Apple Watch and the rumored AR wearable device, potentially starting later this year.




Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) will be producing the smaller MicroLED panels on behalf of Apple, claims Digitimes research analyst Luke Lin. Produced on silicon-based backplanes, Lin cites supply chain sources suggesting there will be two different sizes of smaller panels produced in the partnership.

A 1.3-inch to 1.4-inch panel will be produced for a future Apple Watch model, while a second 0.7-inch to 0.8-inch version will be used for an "AR wearable device," referring to the long-rumored AR headset.

According to Lin, Apple will only use the MicroLED panels in future premium models of the Apple Watch at first. The cost of production is between 400 and 600 percent higher than manufacturing existing OLED Apple Watch panels of the same size, making it prohibitive to use in entry-level models.

Larger MicroLED panels with TFT-based backplanes are also planned, but it is unknown which company Apple will partner with for its production. Lin claims the bigger panels are destined for use in devices with screens "much larger" than those used in MacBooks, suggesting a potential use for them with iMac and the iMac Pro.

The smaller panel may enter mass production as early as the second half of 2018, though could be pushed into 2019, Lin claims, while the larger panel could be mass produced in 2019 or later. The smaller-sized panels for the supposed AR headset apparently does not have a schedule set for its mass production.

MicroLED technology is apparently capable of producing displays that are brighter and less power-hungry than modern OLED equivalents, in a thinner package. The freedom offered by using an internally-designed engineering process means Apple can fine tune display characteristics, like color accuracy, to match the needs for the device that will house the panel.

Apple has invested considerable time and resources into MicroLED production, following the acquisition of LuxVue, the rumored producer of displays for the Google Glass, in 2014. In April 2015, Apple reportedly set up a laboratory for MicroLED research and development in Taiwan.

In March this year, reports claimed Apple has set up a secret engineering and manufacturing facility 15 minutes away from Apple Park for developing MicroLED technology. The 62,000 square-foot facility is believed to house around 300 engineers believed to be working on the display technology project codenamed T159.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,358member
    OLED went through similar mass production pain but now used in phone,laptop to TV. MicroLED will be in iPhone sooner than anticipated.
  • Reply 2 of 15
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 67unconfirmed, member
    wood1208 said:
    OLED went through similar mass production pain but now used in phone,laptop to TV. MicroLED will be in iPhone sooner than anticipated.
    Yeah but OLED was launched just for the sake of it.

    It was very easy to burn-in, colors where an oversaturated mess and the brightness was appalling.

    Apple will launch the tech when its ready.

    jbdragon
  • Reply 3 of 15
    seankillseankill Posts: 337member
    wood1208 said:
    OLED went through similar mass production pain but now used in phone,laptop to TV. MicroLED will be in iPhone sooner than anticipated.
    Yeah but OLED was launched just for the sake of it.

    It was very easy to burn-in, colors where an oversaturated mess and the brightness was appalling.

    Apple will launch the tech when its ready.


    Funny thing is, last I checked, OLEDs still had burn in issues. I always check the display models at best buy. The Samsung’s usually show issues within 3-5 months on display. Whereas older LCDs still don’t show it unless you are looking at a mid-2012 MacBook Pro with an LG panel. 
    The TVs are still crazy expensive and I still question the life span of the blue LEDs.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    netroxnetrox Posts: 552member
    I am actually surprised it's happening sooner than I thought!
  • Reply 5 of 15
    netroxnetrox Posts: 552member
    The biggest benefit would be a MacBook Pro with microLED as it would dramatically increase battery life but it's hard for me to see how it can scale up to that big screen. I can see it go with smaller screens like Apple Watch because in many cases, the new process involve poor yield and over time, it gets refined and the yield gets better.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    wood1208 said:
    OLED went through similar mass production pain but now used in phone,laptop to TV. MicroLED will be in iPhone sooner than anticipated.
    Yeah but OLED was launched just for the sake of it.

    It was very easy to burn-in, colors where an oversaturated mess and the brightness was appalling.

    Apple will launch the tech when its ready.

    It is a good thing that the color gamut was so wide...to bad, you also need correct color management to take advantage of that wideness. If there is no correct management, colors will be over-saturated or simply incorrect.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,684member
    Even if the panel is 400–600% higher, what is the cost of the current panel? What is the percentage of the panel cost to the entire display assembly? To the entire Watch?

    If a 1.3” 272x340 panel is, say, $2, with a total display assembly cost of $20, and a device cost of $84, for a retail price of $349, is it really not possible on that model? If the raised the base price by $20 it would cover it, and it’s possible that there could be cost savings elsewhere, as well as economies of scale as this product segment grows in popularity.
  • Reply 8 of 15
    Would be great if they could make sure the freakin' screen doesn't just randomly pop off (mine did last night on my iWatch 2... hours on chat and phone... crazy).
    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 15
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,216member
    I just hope they don't make the panels in China.  Keep the tech out of those IP thieves hands!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 15
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,193member
    Series 0 here and still going strong. I wear it almost every day. Tempted by the series 3, by decided the marginal gain was not worth the cost. I'd gladly hold out for the rumoured larger display model (with or without microLED).
    docno42
  • Reply 11 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,684member
    dunks said:
    Series 0 here and still going strong. I wear it almost every day. Tempted by the series 3, by decided the marginal gain was not worth the cost. I'd gladly hold out for the rumoured larger display model (with or without microLED).
    At this point I'd absolutely wait for Series 4, but I don't think that the Series 3 is a marginal gain over Series 0.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,368member
    dunks said:
    Series 0 here and still going strong. I wear it almost every day. Tempted by the series 3, by decided the marginal gain was not worth the cost. I'd gladly hold out for the rumoured larger display model (with or without microLED).
    The speed and responsiveness is hardly marginal. It’s dramatic. Speaking here from a Series 0 day one and now a 3. 
    Soli
  • Reply 13 of 15
    Soli said:
    Even if the panel is 400–600% higher, what is the cost of the current panel? What is the percentage of the panel cost to the entire display assembly? To the entire Watch?

    If a 1.3” 272x340 panel is, say, $2, with a total display assembly cost of $20, and a device cost of $84, for a retail price of $349, is it really not possible on that model? If the raised the base price by $20 it would cover it, and it’s possible that there could be cost savings elsewhere, as well as economies of scale as this product segment grows in popularity.


    If Apple does limit OLED to the higher models, it would probably be due to constraints in the supply chain and not because they cannot afford to put it on all models.

    They also have a history of trickle-down technology from the premium models to the base ones.

    That said, this is Digitimes, so we should probably just take this with a grain of salt.

    docno42
  • Reply 14 of 15
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,216member

    That said, this is Digitimes, so we should probably just take this with a grain of salt.

    Crap, Digitimes?  Waste of time - a block of salt wouldn't help :trollface: 
  • Reply 15 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,684member
    Soli said:
    Even if the panel is 400–600% higher, what is the cost of the current panel? What is the percentage of the panel cost to the entire display assembly? To the entire Watch?

    If a 1.3” 272x340 panel is, say, $2, with a total display assembly cost of $20, and a device cost of $84, for a retail price of $349, is it really not possible on that model? If the raised the base price by $20 it would cover it, and it’s possible that there could be cost savings elsewhere, as well as economies of scale as this product segment grows in popularity.

    If Apple does limit OLED to the higher models, it would probably be due to constraints in the supply chain and not because they cannot afford to put it on all models.

    They also have a history of trickle-down technology from the premium models to the base ones.

    That said, this is Digitimes, so we should probably just take this with a grain of salt.

    I agree that it would be a value for the higher-end due to supply constaints.
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