Thanks to its considerably smaller screen, the Apple Watch often leads the pack of Apple devices when it comes to display technology. It was the first Apple device to feature an OLED display — three years before OLED came to the iPhone X — and so it’s probably not surprising that it may also be one of the first devices to take advantage of the work Apple is doing on MicroLED technology.
Unfortunately, despite a few rumours last year suggesting that a microLED Apple Watch could arrive this fall with the Apple Watch Series 6, it looks like this year’s model may be sticking with the traditional OLED screen, but that doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t still working on its microLED replacement.
Apple has been reportedly developing its own microLED screen technology at a secret facility in California for over two years now, and when rumours of the project first surfaced, most believed that the Apple Watch would be the first to benefit from it, but it’s important to keep in mind that Apple is creating this technology from the ground up — likely at least partially in an effort to reduce its dependency on companies like Samsung and LG that it relies on to supply OLED screens for its devices.
This means that it’s anybody’s guess outside of Apple as to not only when it will be ready to ship, but when it will be ready to ship to Apple’s high standards, and if a recent report from cryptic Twitter leaker @L0vetodream is any indication, the technology may not be ready for prime time just yet.
The prediction suggests that Apple will be sticking with the current OLED display technology supplied by Japan Display (JDI), which Apple has also recently invested $200 million in for the production of OLED displays for future iPhone models.
A New Display Factory
It looks like Apple is also ramping up its efforts to develop microLED displays, however, with MacRumors citing a new report from Taiwan Sourcing Service Provides (CENS) revealing that it’s putting $330 million into a new Taiwanese plant where working on microLED technology will be the “top priority.”
To be clear, this won’t be the only thing happening at the plant, which is expected to expand Apple’s Taiwanese operations in general, and it’s expected to actually begin operations by focusing on Apple’s Mini-LED technology, which could appear in MacBooks and iPads possibly as soon as this fall. The new plant would undoubtedly serve the manufacturing needs of these devices first, but it’s fairly obvious that microLED will be the next stage after that.
In fact, Apple’s secretive California facility is focused entirely on research and development of the technology; it’s not equipped to actually mass-produce the displays, so it seems like the Taiwanese facility is a much more likely candidate for that once Apple is satisfied with its prototypes.
Either way, though, if this latest leak is true, that’s not the case yet, and we’ll likely have to wait until next year to see an Apple Watch with a microLED screen. Even so, the Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to have some pretty exciting new features, including a variety of new health features like sleep tracking and blood oxygen sensors, and there’s even the possibility that Apple could be working on in-display Touch ID as well, although we’re a bit skeptical that this will be ready for this year. Still, Apple seems to have begun following a two-year cycle for major updates to the Apple Watch, and with last year’s Series 5 being a more modest update, we’re definitely due for another big one.