As time goes by, Apple makes more and more of its own products in-house. Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs announced the first iPad, he revealed that the processor was ‘all our own silicon’. The company also makes graphics processors and other components. Well, you know Apple, it does like to have as much control as possible over what goes into its products.
The latest claim by Bloomberg suggests that a new screen technology is being developed in California.
This isn’t entirely new – I reported on something similar last May – but it makes sense that it’s coming into view again now and promises great energy efficiency, meaning battery life will likely go up, which is likely to prove popular with everyone.
After all, the OLED screen for the iPhone X is made by Samsung and Apple doesn’t like to rely on any outside company too heavily. Apple bought a Taiwanese power-efficient LED company called LuxVue in 2014.
The advantage of using an external company like Samsung to make displays is you can control inventory precisely and not be left with unwanted stock: that becomes the supplier’s problem.
But the advantage of making your own components is you have total control of every aspect, you don’t pay another company for making them for you and you can develop technology more privately.
As a sign of how important such a shift might be, shares in companies like Sharp and Samsung slipped after the Bloomberg story hit.
MicroLED is a coming technology. Samsung displayed the first MicroLED TV at CES in January, for instance. It’s very power-efficient, so it offers the promise of an iPhone with either a brighter display or one with the same brightness but longer battery life between charges because MicroLED puts less demand on the battery.
The first place the screen is expected to be seen is on an Apple Watch. It’s easier to make the displays at smaller sizes first and its power efficiency is especially useful for a device like the Watch with a relatively small battery. And let’s remember that the Watch pioneered OLED as a display technology for Apple, appearing in Spring 2015 on the first Watch long before the first OLED iPhone screen, the iPhone X, last November.
Bloomberg claims the development is being conducted in a facility in Santa Clara, California, though this is not where large-scale manufacture is likely to take place. It’s unlikely the new technology will be ready for the next Apple Watch, assuming it’s released this autumn, though you never know. The Watch has the advantage that the numbers of devices, though growing fast, are way less than the tens of millions of iPhones the company makes.
And plans for the next iPhones will already be too far advanced to switch to an entirely new technology this year. Bloomberg estimates it will be three to five years before the tech is ready for phone screens, though perhaps only a couple of years before an Apple Watch with a MicroLED screen could be seen.
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