Apple is developing its own screens, which could make their way into future iPhones, according to a report by Bloomberg. The company is said to be using a secret manufacturing facility in California near its headquarters to make a limited run of microLED screens for testing purposes. These initial tests could lead to more widespread manufacturing in the coming years, to cope with the demand for future iPhone devices.
MicroLED (mLED) screens are different to the current organic LED screens that are widely used in flagship Android devices as well as the Apple iPhone X. These screens use different light-emitting compounds, which make them more power-efficient than OLED screens while also being brighter and thinner. This will enable slimmer devices in the future, and due to the benefits of the technology, are aimed at smaller devices such as smartphones and smartwatches. Apple could leverage its development in the technology to eventually produce screens for both iPhone and Apple Watch devices.
Such a move will have an obvious impact on the bottom-line of Apple, which will be able to produce the large number of screens needed for its phones more economically. Currently, Apple relies on third-party manufacturers to source screens for its devices. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Japan Display, LG and Sharp are all believed to be suppliers of screens to Apple for its various products. All of the companies will see a drop in revenues if a big client like Apple decides to take up screen manufacturing on its own.
Bloomberg further reports that Apple’s plans are still nascent at this stage. Getting into the business of screen manufacturing will require significant capital and investment in manufacturing equipment. While Apple could be in a position to take the lead on microLED technology before other manufacturers are able to make it viable for mass production, newer technologies could well take over the market before Apple is able to get a hold of the technology. The California-based company could also ultimately outsource production altogether, while continuing to develop the technology.
What in-house development could certainly help Apple with, is in removing its dependence on existing technology that isn’t developed specifically for Apple products. Apple uses Samsung screens for the iPhone X and LG screens for the Apple Watch, and developing its own screens to its own specifications will help it develop better phones that are entirely built around the company’s strengths. For the time being though, Apple will continue to back OLED-based screens, and the 2018 range of iPhones are likely to feature externally-sourced screens rather than in-house developed microLED options.