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article imageApple said to be building its own displays in secretive project

By James Walker     Mar 19, 2018 in Technology
Apple is reportedly designing and producing its own displays for next-generation devices. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company is creating MicroLED panels in an attempt to reduce its reliance on supply chain partner Samsung.
MicroLED manufacturing
Apple is increasingly discontented with the state of its supply chain. It depends on companies such as Samsung to supply critical components for its gadgets. Over the past few months, it has signalled a growing desire to move more manufacturing in-house. Bloomberg reports the company's now laying the groundwork to produce its own displays.
Apple's interested in creating MicroLED screens which are expected to result in brighter panels which consume less power. MicroLED is still a new technology which is yet to go mainstream in consumer electronics. This could allow Apple to distinguish its products from the competition by creating slimmer devices with improved display performance.
MicroLED panels are more difficult to produce than other display technologies. Bloomberg claimed Apple has faced multiple difficulties in commercialising its designs. The situation became unbearable "a year or so ago," when the company "almost killed" the project. However, Apple's now said to be making progress and development of the project is significantly advancing.
Race to commercialise next-gen displays
Since this is the first time Apple's producing its own displays, technical troubles are to be expected during development. Apple will also refrain from making widespread use of the panels for the foreseeable future. The first device to utilise in-house MicroLED technology is expected to be a new Apple Watch design, which could be introduced within two years. iPhones won't be updated with MicroLED panels for another three to five years.
Apple will likely end up outsourcing mass production of the displays to an industry partner. This is the same strategy used for other Apple manufacturing efforts, including chip fabrication. The company is currently building engineering samples at a plant in California, but this is considered too small for the commercial manufacturing of the panels. Apple's yet to contact display builders because it does not want to reveal its proprietary technology to other industry members.
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Bringing display building in-house will provide several advantages to Apple. By cutting its supply chain dependencies, it will have more control over manufacturing. If development goes well, it could also be the first to commercialise MicroLED panels which are likely to be sought-after features on future devices. The move could significantly impact on existing display builders such as Samsung, LG and Sharp.
Apple's rivals won't be sitting still though. Samsung's already working towards MicroLED tech and has more industry experience than Apple. With Apple's panels still at least two years off, and even then only slated for small-scale use on the Apple Watch, there's plenty of time for rivals to release more advanced implementations while Apple's still researching the tech.
More about Apple, Smartphones, Mobile, Devices, microled
 
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