According to sources, Apple has invested a minimum of $1 billion over the past decade in the research and development of microLED technology. Upon commencement of production, Apple will perform the crucial “mass transfer” step in the manufacturing process, which involves placing tens of thousands of tiny microLED chips onto substrates.
Apple intends to fabricate these minuscule microLED chips directly onto wafers. For this, it plans to partner with ams-Osram for the microLED components, LG Display for the substrates, and TSMC for the 12-inch wafers. Reportedly, this process will take place in Apple’s secretive R&D facilities situated in the Longtan District of the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan.
Apple’s R&D teams in the U.S., Taiwan, and Japan are working on these displays.
The tech giant has reportedly developed not only the driver-integrated circuits for the microLED screens, but also a portion of the production equipment. This allows it better control the mass transfer process and the possibility to eventually implement this display technology in products traditionally using OLED panels provided by Samsung and other suppliers.
Nevertheless, microLED display production is a challenging process, and manufacturing costs are relatively high. This is why Apple plans to introduce this technology in the Apple Watch Ultra before moving towards mass production of microLED displays for iPhones.
The Apple Watch Ultra is not expected to utilize microLED until 2025, and the first iPhone equipped with this technology is likely several years away from launching.
The four upcoming iPhone 15 models to be released later this year are expected to feature OLED displays.