Foxconn Reportedly Investing in MicroLED Display Tech for Future iPhones

iphone x oledFoxconn is broadening investment in MicroLED display technology in a bid to win orders from Apple for future iPhones, according to a report from the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (via DigiTimes).

MicroLED is widely considered to be Apple's next step after OLED, which it currently uses for the Apple Watch and iPhone XS. MicroLED displays have many of the same advantages that OLED displays have over LCDs, including improved color accuracy, improved contrast ratio, faster response times, and true blacks – given both have self-lit pixels.

However MicroLED displays are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than OLED panels. MicroLED displays also have inorganic gallium nitride-based LEDs, which have a longer lifespan than the organic compound used in OLED displays and should make them more resistant to burn-in issues.

Apple's interest in MicroLED was first reported in 2014, when it acquired MicroLED display maker LuxVue. The following year it was discovered that the ‌iPhone‌ maker had also opened a secretive laboratory in Taoyuan, Taiwan to research display technologies like OLED and MicroLED for future devices.

In 2017, the company reportedly scaled back its efforts at that center, possibly switching to a facility closer to home: Apple is believed to have a secretive manufacturing plant in Santa Clara, California, where it is designing and producing display test samples using MicroLED technology.

microled vs oled vs lcd

Image Credit: TrendForce

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is understood to be providing support for producing smaller form factor applications, which could include future Apple Watch models and AR wearables. Apple has also reportedly had preliminary talks with Taiwan-based company PlayNitride over cooperation in the MicroLED market.

It will likely be a few years before MicroLED displays appear in Apple products – perhaps one year for the Apple Watch and two to four years for the ‌iPhone‌ – once MicroLED displays can be mass produced both reliably and affordably.

When that time comes, Apple will likely outsource full-scale production of the displays, and Foxconn is clearly planning to pick up at least some of the business, if today's report is anything to go on.

Top Rated Comments

Relentless Power Avatar
40 months ago
This technology is what I’m really anticipating and hoping from Apple for the Watch and iPhone. The direct advantages being, it has a [higher resolution over OLED, increased brightness two/three times over OLED and improved color gamut.] In terms of displays, this is the ‘Next big thing.’
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AirunJae Avatar
40 months ago
I'm just here for the MacRumours Forum to tell me how this will be a bad thing.

$2k phones will be the regular cost of micro led phones
Oh, there it is.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
40 months ago
Samsung is the only manufacturer that actually sells a consumer MicroLED product right now. So, it makes sense that Samsung will dominate MicroLED mobile displays. They're pretty much the goto OEM for all display tech and storage tech.
What Samsung sells is large panel mLED. It isn't the same as small panel mLED. Expertise in one area is no guarantee of expertise in another. Think LG and their large panel OLED TV's. They're great. Their small OLED phone panels... not so much. I don't doubt Samsung will be a big player in mLED, but I doubt they will dominate it like they did OLED. Samsung was primarily the driving force in OLED. mLED has numerous players vying to be a force in an arena with a fairly level playing field. None of those players want to be beholden to one vendor.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
40 months ago
Why is Foxconn (an assembler) investing in display tech? Are they trying to build displays?
Foxconn isn't just an assembler. Foxconn is a contract manufacturer. They have mutiple subsidiaries involved in display tech.
Yeah because right now large microled screens are easier to build that smaller ones but you can be sure Samsung is working on adapting this tech for smartphones screens as well. They are currently the only ones showing and selling something that it's using microled tech, a very important detail.
As I said, I don't doubt Samsung will be a big player in mLED. They just won't be what they are in OLED. For a lot of OLED's history, Samsung essentially had no competition and it allowed them to dominate. That isn't true for mLED. Lots of players are vying for a seat at the mLED table... Apple being one of them.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
squizzler Avatar
40 months ago
Great excuse for a price hike.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
40 months ago
I thought OLED was the future.
it was. Future is funny that way. It leaves everything else in the past.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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