Apple has applied for more than 30 patents on microLED display technology in Korea. Wait, what, isn't that Samsung and LG's home turf? MicroLED just sprung to fame thanks to reports that Apple has built a facility in California to research it, and eventually start producing its own displays
for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch
or Macs of the future.
As per Kim Jong-chan, chief of the Korean Intellectual Property Office’s display device screening team: "Apple’s application here appears to be due to the presence of Korean tech firms, including Samsung and LG, which may use Micro-LED panel for their devices in the future
." You don't say.
Samsung already showcased a huge microLED TV wall prototype, but mentioned that the panels can potentially be produced with any size and on a much larger scale, paving the way for the potential usage in phone, tablet and laptop displays. What's the rush, though, and why are the world's largest phone companies vying for microLED supremacy? Well, how about addressing all of the OLED disadvantages in one fell swoop - microLED screens are much brighter, while at the same time consuming less energy to display a unit of luminance, and don't suffer from the blue or any other LED degradation or burn-in issues.
LG microLED prototype display
Moreover, one need to look no further than the mutual dependency that Samsung and Apple created for themselves with the iPhone X
. Samsung prepped factories to make tens of millions of its 5.8" OLED display panels at double the price of a regular LCD screen
, pushing the bill of materials
way up, and Apple, in its turn, transferring this increase to consumers with a $999 tag. The thing is, however, that users are increasingly balking at the record average selling prices that phones reached last year, spelling eventual trouble for Apple at the high-end of the market after analysts cut their iPhone X sales estimates
for this quarter en masse. This, however, led to overcapacity at Samsung
as well, which froze further OLED factory expansion efforts, and even experienced a stock price slide as a result of the flagging iPhone X sales
Depending on a sole supplier is apparently not healthy for both sides
, even if the relationship is symbiotic, let alone if the two companies in question are the phone industry's bitterest rivals. That is why Apple may be planning to research and create the screens for its own gadgets, even if it outsources production to other companies in the end, and what better way to coral the market than lay the patent groundwork for the most promising future display technology, in the fight against Samsung's OLED near-monopoly.
So, when are we likely to see Apple's microLED patents bear fruit in a commercial iPhone? Hold your horses, as Samsung promised to show some prototypes this month, while Apple's research may still be in the lab stages, rather than being production-ready, and the Watch may be the first Apple gadget to get a microLED display, just like Apple experimented with OLED on it first.