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LG Display buys 14 US patents as it prepares for microLED Apple Watch Ultra

Published Aug 3rd, 2023 8:16AM EDT
Apple Watch Ultra on a cactus, displaying the exclusive Ultra watch face
Image: Jonathan S. Geller for BGR

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While a second-generation Apple Watch Ultra is expected later this September, Apple aims to release a top-tier Apple Watch with a microLED display sometime soon. While the transition is still a few years away, LG Display is preparing to manufacture this panel, as it has just bought 14 US patents related to microLED from Taiwan’s Ultra Display Technology.

According to the Korean version of The Elec, there are 13 registered patents and one applied patent. Most of them are transfer process technologies, and a few include microLED technology applied to AR, VR, and head-up displays.

The publication explains that “the biggest challenge in microLED is the transfer process of densely moving and planting chips with a size of several to tens of micrometers in the exact location. If the production yield of the transfer process is low, a repair process to replace defective micro LEDs must be performed, all of which lead to an increase in cost.”

While Apple was first expected to produce its in-house microLED for the Apple Watch Ultra, TrendForce has said that the Cupertino firm scrapped these plans and entrusted this project to LG Display. Apple initially tried to carry out this project in its headquarters or Taiwan, but the research firm said the logistics and supply chain management were too complex.

The publication says Apple is starting this transition to microLED with the Apple Watch Ultra because it’s easier to apply this technology on small displays. Once the company masters that, it will be able to apply to AR devices (the long-rumored Apple Glasses or a new iteration of Apple Vision Pro) and eventually bring it to larger displays with the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

While Samsung Display is also able to produce microLED panels, The Elec says that the South Korean company isn’t that interested in making these displays for Apple as it doesn’t offer much profit.

Lastly, TrendForce predicts that mass production of the microLED display for Apple Watch Ultra has been postponed from the second quarter of 2025 to the first quarter of 2026, which means we might have to wait a bit more than expected for these changes to come to life.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.