Apple’s working on a hybrid display technology that mixes OLED and quantum dot LEDs, according to a new patent application. But what is it? We’ll explain. The patent, which was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, describes a display with “tandem hybrid” pixels. Those hybrid pixels would have an OLED sub-pixel as well as a quantum dot sub-pixel.
Quantum dots are essentially tiny, luminescent particles that can be very finely controlled. In current implementations, like on Samsung QLED TVs, quantum dots are arranged in a filter-like setup applied over a backlit display.
While QLED technology is technically already on the market, it’s really only seen in TVs. And, more than that, the individual QD pixels are used to enhance the color capabilities of existing backlights. In other words, they aren’t illuminated pixels.
Benefits of QLED Hybrid Displays
QLED hybrid displays could offer a number of theoretical benefits to consumers — even over OLED displays, which are already fairly responsive and power-efficient.
- Wider color spaces, as well as more accurate and vibrant colors overall.
- Better power efficiency, which is great for battery life but could also mean higher brightness.
- Better OLED response times, leading to a smoother and more seamless display experience.
- In theory, QLEDs could lead to thinner displays — even thinner than OLED.
- A more streamlined manufacturing process, which could cut down on costs in the long term.
Basically, the technology could be used for an overall better display for consumers. But Apple’s continuing work in first-party display technology may prove to be extremely important for the company’s future product pipeline, particularly since displays are typically one of the most power-hungry components on a smart device.
Because they can be built thinner and they’re more power-efficient, hybrid OLED-QLED displays would be perfect for Apple Watch devices and other wearables. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Apple is reportedly developing first-party microLED panels for future Apple Watches.
More than that, Apple is rumored to be working on an advanced mixed-reality headset that could eventually replace the iPhone as the firm’s flagship device. As you can imagine, a standalone AR/VR headset with internet connectivity would obviously need highly-efficient displays or eyepieces to be practical.
It’s worth noting that this is technically a continuation patent — the original patent was first published in August 2017. Apple has also filed other patents related to QLED display tech.
Of course, Apple patents a lot of technology that never ends up in consumer-facing devices. Similarly, we have no idea when Apple-developed QLED technology could hit the market. In other words, take Apple patents with a grain of salt.