Apple Still Plans MicroLED Apple Watch Ultra, Seeks New Suppliers

Apple remains committed to microLED, despite suggestions that its project to bring the display technology to Apple Watch Ultra has been ditched, according to reports out of Taiwan and Korea.

apple watch ultra 1 1
Last week, Apple supplier ams OSRAM announced that a "cornerstone project" was "unexpectedly cancelled." Counterpoint Research's Display Supply Chain Consultants informed MacRumors that this project related to the rumored Apple Watch with a microLED display.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo later weighed in on the matter, saying that Apple has canceled the project for the "foreseeable future."

Pushing back against this narrative, DigiTimes and ETNews report that Apple still has multiple internal teams dedicated to microLED projects and is actively seeking alternative suppliers. "The OSRAM LED chip may have been replaced due to a drop in performance, and Apple may have already found a replacement for Taiwan or China, which is ahead in the microLED field," said ETNews.

Taiwan's AU Optronics (AUO) and PlayNitride are said to be among the prospective frontrunners to fulfill Apple's production needs, according to DigiTimes. AUO has just begun mass production of microLED watch display panels, while PayNitride is mass producing related chips.

Talks between Apple and PlayNitride have reportedly faltered due to scale limitations, but AUO has apparently emerged as a "promising partner" with its advancements in microLED display applications.

The reports align with comments made by TrendForce, which previously said that Taiwan and South Korea have a "robust lineup of manufacturers for Micro LED chips, backplanes, and related transfer processes."

Kuo last week claimed that microLED production costs are currently "too high" for its Apple Watch Ultra project to be "economically viable." But according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes, the high costs of early microLED production remain within expectations.

"Based on Apple's track record in development, high expenses tied to pioneering technologies are typically manageable and can be addressed as long as production scales up," said the report. "However, the primary challenge persists in overcoming associated technological bottlenecks."

These bottlenecks are said to include an absence of circuit control design within the LEDs, which potentially increases the risk of LED chip damage. "Furthermore, the stamp technology solution falls short in achieving precise transfer, particularly when interfacing with Osram's vertical chips," according to DigiTimes.

The main takeaway from today's reports is that Apple likely still hopes to eventually transition to microLED in the future, but the Apple Watch Ultra may not necessarily be the first product to adopt the technology. According to a separate report today by The Elec, Apple may instead decide to prioritize microLED technology for future, lighter versions of Apple Vision Pro while it waits for watch implementation costs to come down.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Ultra 2
Related Forum: Apple Watch

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Top Rated Comments

pugxiwawa Avatar
20 weeks ago
The problem with AW is software, not hardware, not sure what going to a different display tech will make any difference.
Watch OS is too restrictive and hasn’t improved for many years. Just boring updates years after year.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gleepskip Avatar
20 weeks ago
This looks another case of higher price component without a proportional increase in value.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
XXPP Avatar
20 weeks ago
No money for EU corporations. ??? Thanks to European Commission.
Sorry OSRAM. ?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bviktor Avatar
20 weeks ago

The problem with AW is software, not hardware, not sure what going to a different display tech will make any difference.
Watch OS is too restrictive and hasn’t improved for many years. Just boring updates years after year.
I don't need to be "excited" by my Watch. I just want it to work. And not to take away existing functionality.

Like not being able to lock it in the workout menu anymore - now there's an empty space where that button used to be, so they realiy changed it just for the sake of change.

Or like restricting media storage to 25%. Now I have a lot of empty space I can't use for anything. Very clever feature.

All I need for these stupid REMOVALS of functionality to stop. Maybe improve battery life, and that's it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)