Apple is reportedly working on designing its own in-house MicroLED displays to use in devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The report says that the screens could start showing up on devices as early as next year, following almost five years of planning and development.
Currently, Apple uses displays designed and produced by a variety of vendors — the OLED panels for the iPhone 14s are reportedly made by Samsung, LG, and BOE. According to Gurman, Apple will likely still have other companies produce its displays, but they’ll be doing so using Apple’s designs and specifications rather than another firm’s.
It’s a similar move to the company using its own chip designs in laptops and desktops, ditching Intel and reaping massive performance and battery life benefits. The job of actually making those processors mainly falls to TSMC, but Apple has complete control over the design.
The report says that Apple’s expected to ship its MicroLED screens in the Apple Watch first, potentially as early as 2024, replacing the OLED displays they currently come equipped with. That seems like an ambitious goal, given that one of the difficulties of MicroLED is making it small — currently, the only real commercial product using the tech are Samsung’s massive TVs, like The Wall. But Apple has been reportedly been planning this move for a while.
In 2018, Bloomberg reported that the company was quietly developing in-house screen tech specifically for the Watch, and in 2014 it acquired a MicroLED startup called LuxView. Last year, we also heard that the company was working on ultra-thin micro OLED and MicroLED displays for its AR headset.
It also seems as if Apple may be trying to do something similar to what it’s done with its in-house chip efforts — start small with the tech, but make it so it can be scaled up.
With the Watch, it would be starting small both literally and figuratively — while the Apple Watch sells well, it’s not on the level of the iPhone — giving itself time to iron out any wrinkles with its display designs before bringing them to its flagship project. It will be “years” before Apple’s displays make it to the iPhone, according to Bloomberg.
Gurman also says, similar to an earlier rumor offered by display analyst Ross Young, that plans to equip the Apple Watch with MicroLED may slip to 2025 instead of 2024.