Taking a quick trip down memory lane, Apple back in 2006 paid out $100 million to settle a lawsuit with Creative Labs over allegations that the iPod’s hierarchical menu structure infringed upon one of Creative’s patents. As a direct result of that settlement, Steve Jobs — who was reportedly furious with the suit — became convinced of two things: One, Apple would have to start patenting everything under the sun. And two, it was imperative for Apple to control as many of the underlying technologies in its products as possible.
That said, an intriguing new report from Bloomberg relays that Apple has been operating a secret manufacturing facility in California where a team of approximately 300 engineers have been busy developing and producing MicroLED displays that may one day end up shipping on future iPhone models. Hardly a surprise, Apple for a few years now has been interested in developing superior display technologies. To this point, MicroLED displays certainly fit the bill as the technology is reportedly superior to OLED and promises to “make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.”
Of course, Apple’s research in the area has had its fair share of challenges, with the report noting that the project was almost cancelled about a year ago.
The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a report regarding Apple’s interest in MicroLED displays. This past May, a report surfaced indicating that Apple in 2017 placed an order for a batch of MicroLED screens for testing in future products. What’s more, you might recall that Apple in 2014 acquired LuxVue Technology, a company with expertise in MicroLED display technology. Further, Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr a few years ago said that LuxVue’s technology could result in a “technical breakthrough in displays.”
Should Apple come up with a MicroLED breakthrough, said displays will be incorporated on the Apple Watch well before the iPhone. Indeed, Bloomberg notes that Apple only recently managed to successfully incorporate a MicroLED display on the Apple Watch.
In late 2017, for the first time, engineers managed to manufacture fully functional MicroLED screens for future Apple Watches; the company aims to make the new technology available first in its wearable computers.
In a best case scenario, the report adds that we’re likely still 3-5 years away from MicroLED displays being included on a new iPhone model. Apple is already rumored to be seeking OLED supply from LG Display in an effort to reduce its dependence on Samsung, which is the company’s sole OLED display provider for iPhone X screens. As was the case with A series chipsets, however, Apple appears to be interested in developing its own display technology to cut costs, increase profit margins, and add another element of control over its product lines.