Apple could invest $334 million in a factory building MicroLED displays

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Apple is actively investigating new types of display.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple could underline its interest in MicroLED displays by investing close to $334 million in a dedicated MicroLED factory in Taiwan, a Tuesday report for the Economic Daily News claims.

MicroLED is another future display technology Apple has been actively investigating for some time. While it sounds similar to the MiniLED tech rumored to play a part in many future Apple devices, it is very different.

The main difference is that MicroLED does not use a backlight to light up the display. Like the OLED displays used in current iPhones, MicroLED controls its individual pixels for better contrast. However, it has significant advantages in terms of power consumption. It also offers high levels of brightness, ultra high definition, impressive color saturation, fast response rate, and more.

An explainer blog for Medium, published by writer Vince Tabora earlier this year explains:

“MicroLED are much smaller than Mini-LED. The size of the diodes are in the order of microns, so they are a millionth of a meter in size. Each MicroLED is placed in a pixel, thus they illuminate at the pixel level. Since they are tinier, they are also harder and more costly to produce, but more demand will bring economies of scale. MicroLED provide better luminance and higher resolution than OLED, so they are ideal for premium displays.”

Apple would not own the factory outright. The Economic Daily News article was shared by CNBC. It suggests that the factory would be owned by Hsinchu Science Park, and built in conjunction with Taiwanese LED lighting manufacturer Epistar and flat panel maker AU Optronics. Apple has reportedly sent a development team to Taiwan to work on the project.

It is not clear when the factory will start operations or which devices the MicroLED screens could be used in.

OLED to MicroLED: Apple is investigating new types of screen

Provided this report is accurate, this is not the first time that Apple has invested in a factory. Apple paid a large piece of the $1.5 billion to build an LCD factory with display maker Japan Display in 2015. This doesn’t seem to have been such a success, however. After Japan Display took a turn for the worse, the company has been struggling to pay Apple back the money it owes as part of their agreement.

At present, OLED and MiniLED screens seem to be where Apple’s main focus is. This year’s iPhone 12 handsets are expected to feature OLED displays on every model. Meanwhile, Apple will reportedly ship its first MiniLED iPad sometime next year. Nonetheless, the company has shown significant interest in MicroLED before. Back in 2014, Apple acquired LuxVue Technology, a small California-based company that specializes in building these displays for consumer electronics applications.