Apple has long been rumored to be exploring micro LED displays, particularly for its Apple Watch lineup. Those rumors stretch back to 2016, when a report suggested that the Apple Watch Series 2 might make the switch.
That, obviously, didn’t happen — and even this year’s Apple Watch Series 3 models retain the OLED display of its predecessor. That’s largely because of production issues with micro LED displays — problems that Apple and other companies have been working to fix. Indeed, now, an Apple Watch with a micro LED display seems imminent.
Benefits of Micro LED
Micro LED displays are similar to OLED displays in that they are self-illuminating and rely on LEDs for sub-pixels within a single pixel. Because of the similarity, Micro LED tech sports many of OLED’s benefits — including fast response times and better energy efficiency.
But micro LED displays go even further, with lower latency, higher contrast and better color saturation than OLED. Micro LED displays are even more power efficient than OLED displays, too.
More than that, micro LED displays can be deposited on flexible films. That could pave the way for a greater variety of curved displays and displays that are thinner and more space-efficient across the board.
Apple’s Acquisition of LuxVue, Other Investments
Apple has seemingly expressed an interest in micro LED technology for years now. In 2014, the company acquired micro LED specialist LuxVue, which had previously been tapped to provide micro LED displays for the ill-fated Google Glass. That move, obviously, spawned rumors of Apple’s looming adoption of the display tech. The company also holds a number of patents related to the technology.
Cupertino has also been experimenting with small batches of micro LED displays at its plants in Taiwan, according to supply chain reports. And while other companies are similarly exploring the display standard, Nikkei reported in June that Apple is the “only company” positioned to roll-out micro LED tech on a broad scale.
Micro LED Is Now Closer to Fruition
Of course, the main issue with micro LED is that it just hasn’t been ready for widespread commercialization. That’s becoming increasingly less true by the day.
In fact, micro LED displays for wearables seem imminent, as they only need a bit more refinement to be economical and practical for those smaller devices. Apple, with its large coffers, could cover the high costs of implementing a technology so early in its development.
Not only that, but production is improving all around. According to a recent DigiTimes report, a German production supplier named Aixtron SE has debuted new production equipment that makes large-scale micro OLED much more feasible.
Indeed, Nikkei reported that Apple is planning on producing and releasing an Apple Watch with micro LED display tech as early as next year. Of course, larger display forms like smartphones, tablets and computer monitors are still years down the road.