its big migration to microLED could take it ten years

While the LCD still reigns supreme on the Macs and the OLED could soon conquer them, Apple is preparing the sequel, the microLED. It would start with the Watch, but it could take 10 years for all Apple products to adopt this new display technology.

LCD, OLED, and after? While rumors have it that MacBooks and iPad Pro switch to OLED from 2024Apple is already preparing the sequel, the adoption of a much less widespread technology: the microLED. A technology with many advantages, since it combines almost all the advantages of LCD (brightness and absence of risk of permanent marking, in particular) and OLED, infinite blacks, for example, without forgetting lower power consumption, a reduced thickness of the slab, wider viewing angles, significant modularity to offer a wide variety of formats, etc.

Another long walk

However, the transition to microLED would not happen overnight, or even in two years (or a little more) as was the case with the transition from PowerPCs to Intel processors, or from the latter to Apple Silicon SoCs. Mark Gurman, of Bloombergestimates that Apple will switch all these products to microLED, but that it will take a long time.

Mark Gurman explains that “Apple’s plan is to bring microLED to all of these products, from iPhones to iPads and Macs. But the technology is still in its infancy and is so complex that it could take ten years before we see it in a Mac. » To drive the point home, he puts this transition into perspective with that towards OLED: “The iPhone has been using OLED screens for six years when we expect it on the iPad”.

The Watch as a pioneer

Once again, the Watch should be the first to adopt this technology. According to Mark Gurman and a few reliable sources, it will be more exactly the Watch Ultra which would adopt a microLED screen first. We will have to wait until next year to see them arrive.

For Apple, this first step would obviously be much more than technological. The Cupertino giant would thus design its own slabs, a good way to differentiate itself from its competitors and to control its innovation curve, even if it will probably have to rely on Samsung or LG to produce the slabs.

Tim Cook’s teams have been preparing for this migration for years. Already in 2017, industry sources indicated, at the Digitimesthat the Watch would be the first product to adopt the microLED, which is all in all logical given the volumes sold and the screen sizes used.

Nevertheless, beyond the technical constraints, the specialized daily pointed to another constraint, that of the price. At the time, a 5-inch microLED panel would have cost between $90 and $100, according to Digitimes. For comparison, according to IHS Markit, the 5.5-inch, 1920×1080 pixel LCD panel, embedded in the iPhone 8 Plus in 2017, cost “only” 52.5 dollars. It represented at the time the biggest source of cost for Apple.

To continue with this comparison, the 6.7-inch OLED Super Retina XDR panel of the iPhone 12 Pro cost $80 in 2020, according to estimates from analyst firm Counterpoint Research.

Without even taking into account the needs for improving technology at the time, the price difference probably explains why microLED panels have not yet taken place in iPhones. The maturity of this technology could now allow Apple to consider it in small products for a more… affordable price. But, anyway, not before 2024…

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