Apple Inc. will finally start designing and building its own displays. A secret manufacturing facility located near its main headquarters in California has already been set up for this. Apple is making huge investments in the development of MicroLED screens and people familiar with the matter told us that the company will start with small productions for testing purposes.
MicroLED screens use light-emitting compounds that are designed to make the devices more energy efficient, slimmer, and brighter. But despite the benefits, the MicroLED screens are relatively harder to make compared to the current OLED screens.
Reports indicate that even though Apple has always had ambitions to produce its own displays, the project was almost killed last year due to operational difficulties. However, it seems that the American giant has finally managed to overcome these issues.
Apple’s decision to venture into in-house manufacturing of device displays could have potential long-term negative effects on key suppliers. Companies like LG Display, Samsung Electronics, Sharp Corp, and Japan Display Inc. could see a significant drop in revenue considering that Apple is one of their biggest customers.
Apple sees the idea of controlling the MicroLED market as a significant competitive advantage over its rivals. Samsung, in particular, has been developing superior screens and now Apple wants to take over with its MicroLED displays.
However, despite what appears to be a good opportunity, it won’t be easy. Experts argue that mass producing MicroLED screens in order to meet Apple’s demand will require a lot of expensive and sophisticated equipment. Acquiring and setting up such equipment takes time. According to many analysts, by the time Apple is able to bring the MicroLED screens into the market, there’s a huge possibility that another more superior option could already be available. Besides, manufacturing has its own risks.
Also, reports show that the California facility is too small to support any kind of mass production. It’s very likely that Apple will outsource the production of the screen technology.
For all the years Apple has been making smartphones, all the screens used have been off-the-shelf displays. The Apple Watch, for instance, has a screen from LG Display while the more advanced OLED screen for iPhone X uses Samsung technology. Although Apple has tweaked them to its own specifications, this is actually the first time that the company is developing its own displays.
According to a source from the company, although eventually Apple engineers will want to replace iPhone screens with in-house MicroLED displays, the new technology will first be used on Apple’s wearable computers. It’s not yet clear how long it will take until the displays become available. However, Apple has already made significant steps in fine-tuning the prototype and if the company decides to proceed with the project, it can take at least two years before mass production starts.