According to a report by Bloomberg, anonymous sources claim that Apple is beginning development on its own displays at a secret manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, California. Apple's intent to increase its supply chain beyond Samsung has been rumoured for a while now, and it has apparently spent billions of dollars to aid LG's OLED production. According to Bloomberg's sources, however, the new screens will feature MicroLED technology, which uses different light-emitting compounds and would enable Apple to produce lighter and slimmer devices which require less battery power.
Apple's acquisition of MicroLED firm LuxVue in 2014 indicated an early interest in the technology, and while the California facility is said to be too small for mass production, Apple is thought to be keen to keep this proprietary tech away from its competitors for as long as possible, and is making a small amount of samples for test purposes. It seems unlikely that Apple will be shipping products with the new technology for a while yet, with analysts suggesting that it will feature on the iWatch in about two years, and on the iPhone in the next three to five years, with full-scale production likely to be outsourced.
Apple was reported to be working on MicroLED technology at a facility in Taiwan until last year, when it scaled down production- presumably to transfer it to the Santa Clara operation.
MicroLED screens can contain millions of pixels, with each pixel having three sub-pixels in green, blue and red, each of which has to be individually created and calibrated. It gives engineers a much finer level of control over individual colours.
Apple's move into making its own displays has the potential to cause significant harm to an array of suppliers, including Samsung and LG, as well as companies producing chip-screen interfaces such as Synaptics Inc.
If Apple can take control of MicroLED it would give it a significant advantage in a crowded marketplace- although the timescale involved means it is quite an expensive gamble. If a new technology supplants MicroLED in the meantime, or problems become insurmountable, that's a lot of money down the drain.
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