After graduating from LEDs to OLED with the iPhone X, Apple is apparently working on microLED display technology, that is supposed to replace the OLED display in future iPhones. Like you can probably judge by the name, microLED screens take some of the key benefits of OLED over LCD yet further, offering even greater brightness, color saturation, and power efficiency.
Surprisingly though, according to a report by Digitimes Apple has downsized its microLED R&D team in Taiwan, and the company is struggling with some of the practical manufacturing aspects of the technology. The company was earlier this year reported to be moving into trial production. “Apple has reportedly downsized its R&D team for development of Micro LED display products in Longtan, northern Taiwan, due to issues related to mass transfer of Micro LED chips onto receiver substrates, according to sources from Taiwan’s upstream LED suppliers.
The slow progress in the development of the mass transfer technology is believed to impede related panel makers from realizing volume production of microLED panels in the short term, and therefore persuading Apple to realign the personnel of the microLED team, said the sources.”
However, justifying that pessimism, the report goes on to further note that Apple may be cutting the size of the team simply because that phase of the research is complete, with further R&D work being carried out in the US.
Additionally, the report also suggests that Apple is collaborating with TSMC on an alternative approach to the manufacturing challenges. “Apple is reportedly collaborating with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to develop applications based on silicon-based backplanes (silicon wafers) aiming to sidestep the bottleneck that entails with the mass transfer of LED chips, indicated the sources.”
Back in 2014, Apple acquired LuxVue, a company that specializes in microLED display technology. Which means, it is safe to presume that Apple has been looking forward to the newer displays for a while.