Is Apple developing its own MicroLED screen technology for a future iPhone?

iPhone 8

Apple is reportedly no longer satisfied using off-the-shelf OLED tech in its iPhones, iPads and smartwatches, and is in the process of developing its own MicroLED panels.

The tech giant has been making significant investments in developing the technology at a secret manufacturing facility in Cupertino, where the company is headquartered, anonymous sources told Bloomberg yesterday.

MicroLED is an emerging flat-panel technology that offers multiple benefits over OLED and traditional LCD technology. Of particular interest to Apple is likely the fact that MicroLED uses much less energy, which could improve battery life and also enable the development of thinner devices. They also offer better contrast, higher colour saturation and lower latency.

However, it's also much more difficult to manufacture and hasn't yet been produced at commercial scale anywhere, although Samsung hopes to bring a MicroLED TV it showcased at CES to market this year.

These challenges led to Apple almost killing its own development project a year ago, according to Bloomberg's sources, but in the end it decided to continue working on the technology. This determination has apparently paid off and the company's MicroLED efforts are now reportedly at "an advanced stage".

The likelihood of the iPhone 9 or any upcoming new Apple Watches having MicroLED screens is fairly low, however. The technology is still in a developmental stage and it could be some years before Apple commercialises it, whereas the iPhone 9 is expected to enter the market in autumn this year at the company's annual Special Event.

Samsung currently produces OLED screens for Apple's iPhone X flagship, but was expected to take a hit from subdued demand for the device, which led Apple to cut the number of units it planned to build. This left Samsung with excess capacity after ramping up production in readiness for the iPhone X's release.

Citing "people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning", Bloomberg said Apple

IT Pro contacted Apple regarding the claims, but hadn't received a response at the time of publication.

Jane McCallion
Managing Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Managing Editor, specializing in data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Managing Editor, she held the role of Deputy Editor and, prior to that, Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialize in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.