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Apple is engaged in a global effort to safeguard its next game-changing technology

Published Mar 20th, 2018 7:42PM EDT
iPhone MicroLED Displays
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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Apple is working on a secret display technology that will soon be used in its products, including the iPhone. While Apple may be operating its MicroLED facilities in secrecy, in Taiwan first, and now in California, MicroLED tech isn’t exactly a secret, and Apple isn’t the only company working on the future of screens.

But Apple appears to be very aggressive about defending its innovations in a field that’s dominated by its rivals.

How is Apple protecting its own inventions related to a crucial piece of technology? By filing patents, of course. Not just anywhere, mind you, but in Korea, the home of Samsung Display and LG Display.

We’re used to seeing Apple file a ton of patents in the US, as the company, but The Korea Herald draws our attention to an increased patent activity in Korea.

Apple applied for 11 MicroLED patents in the region over the last 10 years while LuxVue Technology, a company that Apple purchased in 2014, applied for 23 MicroLED patents during the same timeframe. In total, Apple has more than 30 patents to defend its MicroLED screen innovations.

Samsung and LG have filed plenty of patents during the same period. Samsung’s Display unit has 24 patents, and LG Display applied for 35 patents. On top of that, Samsung Electronics also has 24 patents, and LG Electronics has 29 patents on MicroLED display tech.

MicroLED screens would help Apple reduce the thickness of the iPhone’s display while increasing power efficiency and screen performance. The Apple Watch is the first Apple device rumored to get a MicroLED display. One other application for MicroLED tech is AR and VR headgear. And Apple is reportedly building its own AR headset.

Moving display tech in-house could also help Apple protect some iPhone design secrets on top of reducing its resilience on competitors for this critical iPhone component. A few months ago, a report said that Apple is working on a secret iPhone project with LG so that Samsung can’t have access to it. That project, rumors said, concerns iPhones with foldable displays.

Until the Galaxy S9 rolled along, the iPhone X had the best OLED display ever made for a smartphone. That’s not all of Samsung’s doing. The Korean company might be the only company that manufactures OLED screens for the iPhone, but these screens are made according to Apple’s specifications. Also, Samsung’s OLED display deals with Apple were inked long before the iPhone X rolled out, which means Samsung had knowledge of Apple’s iPhone display plans well in advance.

Samsung, meanwhile, unveiled a 146-inch MicroLED TV at CES 2018. It’s unclear when the technology will be used in Galaxy phones.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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