What's the future of LED displays? Apple already working on own micro-LED units, reports say

The micro-LED screen may make a debut in Apple Watch Series 3

The micro-LED screen may make a debut in Apple Watch Series 3


Back in 2014, Apple acquired LuxVue to develop advanced micro-LED screens – a technology that is still not in mass production, but looks promising to be the 'next big thing' in display tech. A recent report suggests that Cupertino has been working actively on concepts that make use of mico-LED diodes, together with infrared sensors, and what not. The emerging screen tech holds massive potential, in terms of energy reduction, capacity for unseen before display features, as well as a much better all-round visual experience.

In recent months, various official and semi-confirmed sources have indicated that Apple is actively looking to close (or at least tighten) the manufacturing loop. The company is set to go in-house for the production of various device components, which will ultimately result in fewer chip sales for its current providers, such as Samsung and LG. Apple has long been known for its very successful fusion of hardware and software, exclusive for its products.

Apple’s infrared micro-LED display – what we know so far


Apple's micro-LED screen patent shows in-built infrared diodes that support in-screen fingerprint reading

Apple's micro-LED screen patent shows in-built infrared diodes that support in-screen fingerprint reading


This February the US Patent and Trademark Office published 48 newly granted patents to Apple, amongst which was a patent for a display tech, inherited from LuxVue. 

The essence of the protected concept is integration of interactive microchips, micro-LED diodes and IR capabilities – all under your thumb. Microscopic LED lights should offer much better contrast and brightness capabilities than the widespread OLED tech. A micro-LED display, compared to an OLED one, would reduce battery consumption and should offer much better response times. The patent actually indicates there might even be an in-built battery supply unit in the very screen.

What Apple’s patents also seem to show is that the screens would feature tiny IR diodes. Such tech should finally allow for a smoothly working in-screen fingerprint sensor, as the diodes, as per patent notes, can “sense patterned IR light, reflected off grooves” on your finger. The opportunities from here are immense. Add to that Apple’s supported multi-finger gestures and the spectrum of applications of the tech becomes even more exciting.

The patent’s implementation notes indeed suggest an array of options for use of such screens, citing TV, laptops, automotive heads-up displays, digital cameras, handheld game consoles (yes, please!), ebook displays, and possibly other mobile Apple gadgets.

Micro-LED in the future


The micro-LED tech is still very undeveloped and it hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet. However, looking at Apple’s Patent Office dealings, it is safe to conclude that Cupertino may actually be quite close to showing off a micro-LED screen with in-built fingerprint sensors in the foreseeable future. We may actually see it in Apple Watch Series 3, but no official announcement or detail have been given on the matter. It's unlikely that we will see larger micro-LED gadgets anytime soon, as the tech still very much in development.

The implementation of infrared display tech was previously mentioned in an iPad patent in 2015

The implementation of infrared display tech was previously mentioned in an iPad patent in 2015

But what does that mean for competitors? See, the patent for the microscopic LED tech belongs to the Kansas State University, meaning that virtually any manufacturer with authorized use rights can produce gadgets with micro-LED diodes. However, it’s the IR fingerprint feature that may put Apple in a very comfortable position on the market. We heard rumours of the Galaxy S8 come sporting a fingerprint sensor under the screen, which turned out false, and no phone-maker so far has managed to implement such a move.

Apple's in-house game


The recent news on Apple's display patents are just a reminder that the company bets heavily on custom parts, exclusive only for its own products. One of the keys to its success has been the seamless communication of hardware and software components, made exclusively for i-branded devices. Moving aspects of its production line in-house, Apple seems to emphasise on own innovative effort. Apple’s large money pile allows it to spend heavily on premier talent acquisitions and new tech research, which gives it a great advantage ahead of smaller enterprises. Only in the span of one month, we learned that Apple might be looking to go in-house with the production of power management circuits, GPU chips, and is allegedly looking to buy Toshiba’s RAM units business. This is what happens when you have close to $250bn in the bank.

What should you expect?


It’s very early on to tell whether Apple’s innovative influence would play out like we speculate it might, especially when it comes to leasing own component designs to competitors. In relation to a micro-LED screen device, we do not expect that the upcoming iPhone would sport it, given that pointers suggest to an OLED display. Apple has also contracted Samsung for the production of OLED units until 2019, meaning that the current LED tech will not be replaced overnight. It will be a huge surprise, albeit still a possibility, if we see an Apple micro-LED product amongst 2018/2019 releases. We do suspect that it in Watch Series 3, but this is also far from confirmed. In any case, the Californian tech giant seems in a very good position to invade the new display niche, while also likely prepping debut products in the AR and VR department. Exciting times ahead, guys!

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41 Comments

1. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3944; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Interesting and pretty funny given what everyone was saying in the comments on that article about the S8's home button.

2. dmitrilp_

Posts: 330; Member since: Sep 12, 2016

I don't expect sh*t from Apple, always copying Android. Every release it's an old version of Android, whoever denies it's because they've always had an Iphone and has no clue of what Android is.

4. kiko007

Posts: 7490; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

That's nice... no one gives a s**t.

5. bucky

Posts: 3774; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I have both and i can tell you they both copy each other. And even before copying each other, they either buy out smaller tech firms for their tech, or flat out copy what modders do. If i had to choose though, its pretty obvious Samsung's entire smartphone game has been targeted at apple first though.

11. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"I have both and i can tell you they both copy each other." No one has done more copying in the past 3 years like Apple did. From the phablet size to more RAM to higher resolution displays to even a stylish-enabled device. The funny thing isn't even the act of copying itself, funny thing is Apple taking a complete U-turn and doing what they notoriously bashed in the past. All OEMs do similar, but I can safely say Apple does it the most... After all, "Good artists copy, great artists steal" - Steve Jobs.

21. Ninetysix

Posts: 2933; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

Are you sure? Xiaomi wins in this department. They like to copy everyone specially Apple.

32. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

right,,, MiMix is just another iPhone clone..

38. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Apple is a Chinese OEM. So I expect all Chinese copy each other. After all, isn't Foxconn a Chinese company?

30. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1521; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

They bashed stylus input for years, than release an Apple pencil claiming to revolutionize note taking. Of course it does no more than a Galaxy Note or Microsoft Surface, but Apple fans believe they revolutionized something.

34. AlikMalix unregistered

1. Steve criticized stylus as primarily input device. Such as found on old pda's 2. Apple Pencil has different features to note s-pen and ms pen, I cannot draw as well with those that I can with pencil.

40. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

1 - You are correct. Hwoever, the way PDA's and some smartphones were made, the screen was to tiny for finger input and stylus made it easier. Now ot be fair, a larger screen surely makes it easier for a finger. But that doesn't mean a pen/pencil isnt still a better tool in certain situations. After all writing is far better and faster than typing. Drawing with a pen/pencil is easier than with a finger, as its more accurate. 2 - well that's complete personal preference and nothing else. The Apple Pencil has one benefit over ther SPen..SIZE. But at least Samsung includes it and made it easy to carry at the same time. Apple doesn't include it, doesn't make it easy to carry and it charges in a stupid way. But Samsung uses WACOM. Which means I can go an buy a WACOM Pencil an use it with the Note which I have because when I draw, I prefer a full sized utensil.

39. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

This...every word!!

35. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3944; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Making a phablet and increasing the resolution and ram, come on that isn't exactly copying IMO. It is ironic though, give the fact that Apple made fun of such things as increasing the screen size, having a resolution higher than their retina display and using more than 1gb or ram.

36. MrHate

Posts: 313; Member since: Feb 09, 2015

Just the fact that you bring up stuff like RAM or resolution proves how stupid you are. Like come on man.

41. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You can't copy RAM or amounts of it. Its also obvious resolution increases with screen size. So that doesn't count as copying. Copying Phablet is a certainty. True, everything Apple bashed they ended up copying. They did this with Windows, Tablets, phones, music players, and more.

37. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

The only phone Samsung ever released that "copied" the iPhon was the orginal Galaxy S. And yes it was a direct attack and competition vs Apple. Samsung showing, look we can do that too. Hwoever, as Samsung showed in court, Samsung already had a full screen device with a centralize speaker and home button. Even though it was a msuic player, it was an "obvious" design, that Aopple could not claim as their idea. But Judge Koh, threw this evidence out claiming Samsung brought it to late which was BS, because they were still in discovery and hadn't gone to trial yet. Samsung brought the same thing up to the Supreme Court which is why the USSC sided with Samsung and is also why the USPTO has nullified that patent Apple has never had an original idea...EVER. The problem has always been the same. If Apple copies its no big deal, they all do it. But when Samsung copies, you treat it likes its the end of the world and that tech companies cant move forward without copying Apple. The evolution of the smartphone showed it was moving towards a full screen device. Apple simply was the first to jump in with a full production option. But they still "borrowed" the idea from existing products. They didn't just make it from scratch. Also facts show Apple didn't design the iPhone anyways...SONY did. Apple paid Sony for designs and ideas, and Apple took several of those and made their phone. But one of Sony designs back then, looks exactly like the iPhone 4. Because Apple cant really design a phone, they have kept the same basic look an style for every model.

22. drunkenjay

Posts: 1645; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

it doesnt matter who copied. as long as its a good phone, it shouldn't matter for us consumers.

24. kiko007

Posts: 7490; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

This, every word of it.

3. torr310

Posts: 1625; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

I once hated Apple due to their ecosystem and controling over users. Now I praise Apple for the new technology and the coming beast CPU. Though I probably would still go to Android for freedom and affordability.

6. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

I'm waiting for the display tech that will marry the strengths of LCD and OLED, so that way Samsung can stop hoarding the best screens for themselves ;-)

31. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

How is Samsung hoarding the best screens?

7. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Its going to be a while before through screen fingerprint scanners are a reality I would think, at the very least they would need to improve the smudge factor of most screens, since I can't imagine that would make things easy.

8. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

It would improve security to have the ability to scan a larger portion of the fingerprint. The current state of fingerprint sensors isn't as safe as people think.

9. ElenaSandy

Posts: 12; Member since: Nov 20, 2015

I can only but laugh, working on it for the last 3 years+ and they've signed a contract with Samsung to supply with their OLED screen for two years, so FIVE years and NOTHING!! Apple has nothing to bring to the table.

12. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1182; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

Ummm, you do know Samsung has been working on flexible OLED displays for more than 6 years, and still yet to put out any product too! Intel has their roadmap listed 10 years prior and starts developing the micro architecture too for 5-6 years before it comes to the market. And you think tech only takes just a year or two to develop and implement properly?

15. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"Ummm, you do know Samsung has been working on flexible OLED displays for more than 6 years, and still yet to put out any product too!

17. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

SORRY, MY POST #15 WAS POSTED ACCIDENTALLY. ^^ "Ummm, you do know Samsung has been working on flexible OLED displays for more than 6 years, and still yet to put out any product too!" Flexible OLED displays, you say? Ever heard of the Galaxy Round which was released in 2013? It had a Super Flexible AMOLED display and was available for purchase. Get your facts right.

27. krystian

Posts: 423; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

There's a lot that goes into a flexible display and that's really getting all the parts working together. PMOLED would be best but Samsung has put a lot of money into AMOLED. Oled tech is still fairly new in the grand scheme of things. To say that micro LED being researched is better than OLED is simply comparing it to the current iteration of OLED if in fact it is better. Mastering Oled is more complex but can have more rewards. Even LG has been able to get the nits up pretty high in their new flagship tv's shown off at CES.

10. EnriquePal

Posts: 6; Member since: Mar 05, 2017

Yeah...right...

14. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Yeah, no?

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