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Apple has a secret laboratory in Taiwan where it’s developing thinner and brighter iPhone displays

Published Dec 15th, 2015 8:20AM EST
Apple Secret Lab
Image: Niels Epting

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In Apple’s never-ending quest to create even thinner devices, Bloomberg reports that Apple earlier this year opened up a new and secretive research lab in Taiwan. There, a team of about 50 engineers are working tirelessly to develop new display technologies that would ultimately allow Apple to release products which are lighter, thinner, and more energy-efficient.

Located in the Longtan District of Taiwan, the report relays that Apple has already hired former engineers from AU Optronics and Qualcomm to help speed along development. Of course, the focus of Apple’s latest R&D lab is on iPhones and iPads; if there’s a way to make then even thinner, Apple wants to be on top of it.

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“Apple began operating the lab this year as it aims to make products thinner, lighter, brighter and more energy-efficient,” Bloomberg writes. “Engineers are developing more-advanced versions of the liquid-crystal displays currently used in iPhones, iPads and Mac personal computers, the people said. Apple also is keen to move to organic light-emitting diodes, which are even thinner and don’t require a backlight, they said.”

An interesting wrinkle to Apple’s new research initiative is that it may further lessen Apple’s reliance on Samsung. If Apple becomes more directly involved with the development of display technologies, outsourcing “to smaller manufacturers such as Taiwan’s AU Optronics or Innolux Corp.” may become a possibility. Additionally, Apple-designed iOS displays would help further differentiate the company’s mobile products from rivals.

Also worth highlighting is the claim that Apple has an interest in OLED displays, a rumor which we’ve seen sprout up with increasing frequency over the past few weeks. The most recent rumblings from the rumor mill suggest that Apple won’t make the transition to OLED displays until the iPhone 8, with the company already eying Samsung, Japan Display (a joint Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba venture), and LG as potential suppliers. In fact, LG last month confirmed that it was investing a minimum of $8.4 billion into a new OLED plant set to begin operations in early 2018, just enough time for it to be ready for mass iPhone 8 production if Apple goes down that route.

While there are some drawbacks to OLED displays (they’re more expensive, color saturation can dull over time), Apple is reportedly talking to suppliers about ways to address those issues. On the plus side, OLED displays are thin and light, incredibly energy-efficient, and provide rich and vibrant colors.

Regardless, it seems clear that for as great as the iPhone and iPad displays already are, Apple isn’t resting on its laurels and is working hard to make them even better.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.