Apple already makes its own chipset for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and even the AirPods, but now it’s making yet another effort to develop components in-house rather than sourcing them from third parties.
Apple is reportedly designing and producing its own displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility in California to produce enough units for testing.
As Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter, the Cupertino company is making a “significant investment” in developing MicroLED displays. This type of screen, for the uninitiated, make use of different LED compounds than current OLED displays and promises to make smartphones slimmer, brighter, and less battery-intensive.
Apple Developing MicroLED Displays In-House
Bloomberg notes that MicroLED screens are much harder to manufacture than OLED displays, which the current iPhone X uses, sourced from OLED manufacturing leader Samsung. So difficult, in fact, that engineers working on the display technology nearly gave up and scrapped the project altogether.
But at some point, things turned a corner. The engineers are now at an “advanced stage” of development. That being said, it might take a while before customers finally see MicroLED display on Apple products.
The most important implication of this news is that Apple seems intent to develop components in-house, as mentioned. The notion of developing its own displays for its products will surely hurt profits of suppliers, from Samsung to LG, to Japan Display to Sharp and many others.
Apple sells millions and millions of iPhones each year. Third-party component suppliers make bank by providing Apple certain parts to make its phone, and needless to say that the display is probably one of the major components in manufacturing. Taking that away will surely cause a seismic shift in the industry.
Remember What Happened To Imagination?
Consider Imagination as an example. The company, which used to supply GPUs for Apple’s iPhones, sold itself to Canyon Bridge in September 2017 after Apple suddenly decided to jettison the company to bring GPU development in-house. In just one move, Apple caused a company to suffer an existential crisis. It’s easy to imagine a similar situation would occur suppose Apple does go through with its plan to make its own displays.
However, it’s not that simple. There are hurdles for Apple to overcome. For starters, mass producing MicroLED displays will be a challenge since it will require new equipment. Also, by the time it’s ready for manufacturing, a new display technology might have already surpassed MicroLED technology. Apple has to solve these potential problems before the displays are ready for market.
Most importantly, it’s an extremely expensive undertaking, and Apple has never had significant experience in making its own displays. The project could be scrapped altogether, of course. But then again, suppliers must now think about what they should do in case Apple pushes through with the rumored plans.