Gurman: Apple Is Producing MicroLED Displays at Facility in Santa Clara

Very interesting scoop from Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Right now smartphones and other gadgets essentially use off-the-shelf display technology. The Apple Watch screen is made by LG Display. Ditto for Google’s larger Pixel phone. The iPhone X, Apple’s first OLED phone, uses Samsung technology. Phone manufacturers tweak screens to their specifications, and Apple has for years calibrated iPhone screens for color accuracy. But this marks the first time Apple is designing screens end-to-end itself.

I’m going to disagree vehemently with this paragraph. Apple products do not use “off-the-shelf” display components. The iPhone X OLED display is manufactured by Samsung, yes, but it’s an Apple design, years in the making. Apple’s problem isn’t that they’re stuck using off-the-shelf displays, their problem is that there’s only one company in the world that can produce iPhone X displays at scale, and that company is Samsung, their arch rival.

Imagine if Apple could do to display technology what they’ve done to CPU/system-on-a-chip design?

The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone and Apple Watch screen technology.

The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs.

Gurman says that if the project is successful, it will first appear in future Apple Watches. That makes sense — the watch got OLED first, too. It’s easier to make smaller displays than larger ones, and the watch could really benefit from being thinner. Not long from now we’ll look back at these early generation Apple Watches and laugh at how chunky they are.

Monday, 19 March 2018