Report: Apple's Struggle to Develop MicroLED Technology Led to iPhone X Changes and Reliance on Samsung

Apple has heavily invested in developing its own MicroLED technology for almost a decade to break away from Samsung as a supplier, The Information reports.

iphone x flexible oled displayThe iPhone X's flexible OLED display supplied by Samsung

Apple's MicroLED displays have reportedly taken much longer to develop than expected, forcing it to deepen its ties with Samsung until the technology is ready. MicroLED offers better durability, efficiency, brightness, dynamic range, and viewing angles compared to existing technologies like OLED.

Apple apparently planned to use MicroLED rather than OLED for 2017's ‌iPhone‌ X, but its high manufacturing cost and potential for defects led to the switch to the new display technology being pushed further down the pipeline. Apple still purportedly plans to introduce its first MicroLED displays on the Apple Watch next year, with the panels likely set to be supplied by LG and Sharp, rather than Samsung. The company originally planned to introduce the first Apple Watch with a MicroLED display this year, but it again faced difficulties bringing the technology to market.

Despite the launch of the first MicroLED Apple Watch next year, Apple employees are reportedly concerned that the next-generation display technology will not be ready for larger devices like the ‌iPhone‌ and iPad anytime soon. Some future Apple products, such as the mixed-reality headset and foldable ‌iPad‌, are set to be supplied by companies like Sony, LG, and BOE in an effort to break free of Samsung, but some devices like next year's OLED iPad models and high-end ‌iPhone‌ models will still be reliant on Samsung for the foreseeable future.

Apple has reportedly struggled to reduce its dependence on Samsung due to its manufacturing and technological edge, leading to an unusual relationship where Apple has less power than it does over other suppliers, having to settle for secretive practices, inferior quality, defects, and little visibility over the manufacturing process. Samsung is said to be highly distrustful of Apple, barring Apple engineers and security officials from its facilities, and often refuses to answer questions related to its technology.

The report goes on to cite numerous examples of Apple and Samsung's disagreements, such as when the Korean supplier reportedly refused to accept Apple's request to clean the iPhone 14 Pro's screens despite the presence of debris and residue caused by the process of making cutouts for the Dyanmic Island. Apple has apparently been forced to undertake intense testing of Samsung displays during product development to detect any defects or issues.

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Top Rated Comments

Born Again Avatar
16 months ago
Apple and Samsung. Forever Frenemies.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
surfzen21 Avatar
16 months ago

Lot of assumptions that are opinions in the original article.
Welcome to journalism in the last 20 years.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CWallace Avatar
16 months ago

Apple needs to invest heavily in MicroLED.
It sounds like they have been, but the technology is still quite immature (when it comes to being ready for scores of millions unit production scale which Apple will need) and very expensive ("consumer" MicroLED televisions run around USD 1000 an inch)

More importantly, why would Samsung want to provide Apple engineers info that could potentially help Apple further its own display development?
Exactly. You know Apple would pass the info on to LG and BOE to improve their panels.

And this secrecy goes both ways. We have seen reports since the iPhone X days that Apple has worked with Samsung Display on the iPhone OLED panels to make them better and Samsung Display has evidently leveraged that knowledge to now offer better displays to Samsung Electronics for the Galaxy series (in the past, the Samsung Display OLED panels used in the iPhone were superior to those used in the Galaxy).

What’s the difference between MicroLED vs OLED, and its future differences in the actual Apple Watch vs future Apple Watch?
Both are self-emissive technologies (where each pixel is individually illuminated), but MicroLED does not experience "burn-in" and is said to be able to provide higher peak (and sustained?) brightness and offers a wider viewing angle.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ?️ Avatar
16 months ago
Rough relationship with Samsung.
Apple needs to invest heavily in MicroLED. Once that fully kicks into the market Samsung will be out.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Radon87000 Avatar
16 months ago

I don't blame Samsung - why would you want a horde of Apple Engineers telling you what to do, when you're the content expert.
The S23 Ultra has brought the fight to Apple. That phone is perfect and I don’t use this word lightly. Way more productive than my 14 Pro Max whilst having a more powerful GPU and virtually same battery life.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
EugW Avatar
16 months ago

I don't blame Samsung - why would you want a horde of Apple Engineers telling you what to do, when you're the content expert.
More importantly, why would Samsung want to provide Apple engineers info that could potentially help Apple further its own display development?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)