Apple developing own MicroLED screens for Apple Watch using secret facility

Bloomberg: Apple is secretly working on new MicroLED screens in its Apple Watch, but it could be a few years before the new tech hits shelves.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
Apple is developing and testing MicroLED displays, starting with the Apple Watch, a report said. (CBS Interactive)

Apple is developing and producing its own device displays for the first time, according to a report from Bloomberg. For testing purposes, Apple engineers are making a small number of screens starting with the Apple Watch at a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters.

Apple is making a significant investment into MicroLED screens, Bloomberg said. MicroLED is a screen technology promising thinner gadgets with brighter and less power-hungry displays.

Given the difficulty to produce, it could be a few years before an Apple-made MicroLED screen is in consumer hands, Bloomberg wrote:

The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.

The move to make its own displays could help Apple distance itself from relying on suppliers like Samsung, Sharp, LG Display, and Japan Display. It could also own the MicroLED market after missing out on the current OLED display craze.

Samsung showed a massive TV with MicroLED technology at CES 2018 in January.

Apple's MicroLED plans were first reported by Japan's Nikkei in mid-2017. The publication said Apple is working to adopt the advance display tech in the Apple Watch as soon as early 2018.

Apple's secret testing facility is located in San Jose, according to Bloomberg:

The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices.

Bloomberg reports Apple has 300 engineers designing and producing MicroLED screens for future products.

Apple began a move to developing more chips in its devices in house almost a decade ago. After tweaking the design of the ARM-based A-series SoCs (system-on-a-chip) used in earlier iPhones and iPads, from the A6 onwards it moved to using fully customized chips that were designed in-house. Apple also designs its own GPU.

In June 2017, a source told Japan's Nikkei:

"At this point, Apple is the only company who is able to roll out micro-LED, a technology that is still at an early stage of development, and cover the high costs incurred by the low yield rate."

Many of Apple's supplies saw their stocks tumble in early trading Monday, with Japan Display leading with a fall of 3.38 percent.

We have reached out to Apple and will update you if we learn more.

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