Micro-LED Displays Might Make Way into Apple Watch 3 by Mid 2017 or Later

With OLED gaining traction on the market and rumored to be adopted in upcoming Apple iPhones and MacBook touch panels, it is surprising that the third generation Apple Watch might be switching to another innovative display technology, according to a report from Mac Rumor.

A latest report from Taiwanese media DIGITIMES has pointed out that the Apple Watch 3 might be forgoing OLED and switching to micro-LED displays instead sometime after 2017 earliest.

Based on the time line Apple Watch 2 to be launched during second half of 2016 will probably still house an OLED display, and the rumored micro-LED displays will find its way into Apple Watch 3.

MicroLED displays are thinner, lighter, and have better color gamut performance, and offer higher resolutions. The panels do not require backlighting, but can be difficult and expensive to mass produce, due to its small size that ranges from 1-micron to 100-microns.

In 2014, Apple acquired micro-LED display manufacturer LuxVue Technology that holds key micro-LED related patents, such as the patent for mass transfer of tiny micro-LEDs, which has been the main technology threshold to mass producing the micron sized LEDs, reported Taiwanese media Commercial Times.

It is rumored that Apple has opened a facility in Longtan in northern Taiwan last year to focus on micro-LED related technology, and the Taiwanese media claimed leading LED chip maker Epistar might have co-developed a prototype micro-LED Apple Watch with the Cupertino-based company.

Epistar did not comment on the report, but responded that there are still many technical issues in the manufacturing process that requires breakthrough. The largest issue is not EPI-wafer production, since chip makers only need to adjust their current equipment for mass production.

The LED manufacturer told Commercial Times reporters, it currently has the capacity to upgrade its equipment, and is not too far off from mass producing micro LEDs. Since micro-LEDs are driven by single dies, the industry estimates if all smartphones use micro-LED, the few red LED manufacturers on the markets will reach max production capacity, most estimate Epistar will be the biggest benefactor of the recent trends, since blue LED and green LED chip demands are also projected to pick up.

Taiwanese LED chip manufacturers also noted the chances of mass producing monochrome micro-LEDs outweighed RGB micro-LEDs, because the cost of manufacturing RGB micro-LEDs is double that of a same sized OLED panel.

Many LED manufacturers are aiming to reverse backlight market trends, where Samsung’s has monopolized small OLED displays market by clinching 90% market share. Micro LED is a technology worth following up, but there are still many factors and variables that need to be solved.

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