Apple working on micro OLED displays for AR Apple Glass headset

Apple working on micro OLED displays for AR Apple Glass headset
While a mixed reality headset is set to launch in 2022, Apple’s next mainstream product is expected to be an AR headset dubbed Apple Glass. Now, a lengthy report has shed some light on the plans.

The AR Apple Glass headset will use micro OLED displays


Nikkei Asia reports that Apple is collaborating with long-time partner TSMC to create and develop the next generation of display technologies at a highly secretive lab in Taiwan.

TSMC is best known for manufacturing advanced iPhone and Mac chips rather than displays, but its experience with the former could serve a crucial role as Apple adopts newer tech.

The most important type of display under development is micro OLED, not to be confused with micro LED, which is built onto wafers — the substrates that chips are built on — rather than the glass substrates used on traditional LED and OLED panels.

Micro OLED will eventually pave the way for displays that are both much thinner and more power-efficient than now possible. Sources familiar with the work say Apple hopes to use these next-generation panels on future AR devices, including Apple Glass.

Apple’s secretive micro OLED panels, which are less than 1-inch in size, have entered the trial production stage. However, the sources claim mass production won’t start for several years.

Apple is developing micro LED panels for its other products


In addition to the micro OLED panels, Apple is working on micro LED panels and has trial production lines running at the same facility. These are no closer to entering mass production, but rumors suggest they could be used on a future foldable iPhone. 

For the time being, Apple is focusing its efforts on mini LED. Reports have suggested that Apple could start using this tech on products as soon as this year, starting with certain iPad models and an updated MacBook Pro line. 

Eventually, every Mac and iPad model will use the tech. The Apple Watch and iPhone, on the other hand, are expected to wait for micro LED.

Apple’s new focus on display development is said to be part of plans to reduce dependence on Samsung, which manufactures the bulk of OLED panels for modern iPhones and some LED displays, which in turn could allow it to cut costs and improve profit margins. As Nikkei notes, OLED panels are one of the most expensive iPhone components, second only to Qualcomm’s 5G modems.

How secretive is Apple’s development facility?


Apple is known for its secrecy — it’s one of the only smartphone manufacturers that, aside from the occasional slip, has avoided major leaks over the years — and hidden within today’s report are some details about Apple’s practices.

The top-secret facility mentioned above is reportedly located at Longtan Science Park, in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan, and within a walking distance of TSMC’s chip testing plant.

Nikkei reports, who recently visited the location, say Apple’s complex consists of several unmarked buildings with no logo or address on the outside. Even inside, only a small Apple logo could be seen in the lobby.

Working inside are dozens of veterans from AU Optoelectronics, a local display manufacturer, and experts brought in from other countries. Of course, TSMC’s experts are involved too.

To work on Apple’s micro OLED project, the Silicon Valley-based giant makes everyone sign an ironclad non-disclosure agreement that even prohibits them from meeting with friends or acquaintances who work in the tech sector.

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