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Forget the iPhone 8: micro-LED screens could power Apple’s future

Published May 24th, 2017 3:30PM EDT
Apple Micro LED
Image: Apple Inc.

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It’s no secret that Apple in recent years has started devoting more and more R&D resources towards researching next-gen display technologies. In 2015, for example, Apple opened up a semi-secretive research lab in Taiwan where a team of 50+ engineers and scientists are tasked with exploring advanced display technologies that would allow Apple to release products with thinner, lighter, and of course, more energy efficient displays.

Looking ahead, it’s widely believed that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 will be the first iPhone model to incorporate an OLED display. Still, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Apple is already looking beyond OLED towards the next big thing. To that end, a new report from Digitimes relays that Apple recently ordered a batch of Micro LED screens for testing in future products. According to the report, Apple may begin trial production on devices with Micro LED displays as soon as this year, though it’s possible trial production might be pushed back to 2018.

“Apple has been keen in the development of micro LED technology following its acquisition of LuxVue in 2014,” the report reads, “and recent market speculations also indicate that Apple is likely to crank out a small volume of micro LED display products from its plant in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan at the end of the year.”

As for why Apple is interested in micro LED technology, the displays are said to be significantly brighter and far more energy efficient than current OLED display technology. And as smartphones seemingly take on heavier tasks with each passing year, the need for displays that consume less power becomes more and more of a strategic advantage.

Interestingly enough, Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr, while speaking about the Micro LED technology Apple picked up when it acquired LuxVue, intimated a few years ago that the technology represents a “technical breakthrough in displays.”

As it stands now, there are challenges associated with building large Micro LED displays, which is to say you shouldn’t expect it to be a feature on Apple’s line of MacBooks anytime soon. As for the iPhone, well, Samsung and Apple reportedly have a deal for OLED displays that runs through the iPhone 9, so we may have to wait a bit before Micro LED displays on smartphones becomes a reality as well.

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.