Apple Working With TSMC to Develop MicroLED Screens, Wearable AR Device: REPORT

Apple is reportedly joining up with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to develop microLED displays for future Apple Watch models and an augmented reality (AR) wearable device.

According to a recently published report from DigiTimes, Apple, alongside supplier TSMC, is working to develop a 1.3 to 1.4-inch MicroLED for a future Apple Watch.

The MicroLED cost is initially expected to be 4 to 6 times that of the OLED panels used in current Watches, so the screen might only be used in Apple’s “top-of-the-line” models. A similar pricing differentiation has previously been used with Ion-X and sapphire screen glass in entry-level and mid-range Watches.

The report also claims that Apple is working on a 0.7- to 0.8-inch display for an “AR wearable device, potentially AR glasses.” This screen would be half as large on the diagonal as an Apple Watch display but would look massive if placed close to the eye. This screen apparently has no mass production schedule, notes analyst Luke Lin.

Finally, the report notes that Apple is also working on “large-sized” microLED panels that could make their way into “products sized much larger than MacBooks.” The only current Apple devices with screens larger than MacBooks are iMac desktops. This panel could enter mass production “in 2019 or later,” reads the report.

MicroLED displays offer significant benefits over OLED and LCD. For example, they come with significantly higher brightness levels coupled with better energy efficiency and thinner panels. Unfortunately, bringing microLED technology is presenting a lot of hurdles for Apple in terms of both cost and scale. According to DigiTimes, a single microLED display might cost five times as much as a single OLED screen and the latter is three times as expensive as an IPS LCD panel.

Interestingly, Digitimes expects Apple to start developing microLED panels for the Apple Watch as early as the end of the year. Bloomberg, which notes that the project is being headed up by long-time Apple engineer Lynn Yongs, was more pessimistic and said development likely will begin in 2020.