Apple could start building micro-LED screens by end of 2017

Despite many technological bottlenecks, Apple could kick off trial production of the power-efficient display panels based on a relatively new and unproven micro-LED technology by the end of this year. According to a supply chain report Wednesday from Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes, the Cupertino giant is likely to crank out a small volume of micro-LED display products from its plant in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan at the end of the year.

Other companies are looking to commercialize micro-LEDs, too.

Samsung-owned PlayNitride should install a production line for micro-LEDs in the second half of 2017, which will use a mass-transfer process that mounts micro-LED chips on thin film transistor substrates. Micro-LED are so small that a five-inch 400-by-600 pixel smartphone panel requires nearly one million and a 4K TV panel about 50 million tiny chips.

PlayNitride doesn’t expect first micro-LED-based mobile products to appear before 2019.

Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute is expected to tie up with local businesses to begin trial production of micro-LEDs in 2018, using its in-house developed technology.

Let’s not forget Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn, which recently announced plans plans to acquire display startup eLux for the development of next-generation micro-LEDs.

Apple itself acquired micro-LED specialists LuxVue three years ago.

Business Korea claimed last month that Apple Watch Series 3 is likely to use a micro-LED display before the technology proves feasible enough to be deployed on a mass-scale across Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac devices.

Samsung Display and LG Display, which currently supply LCD screens for Apple devices, could lose around $1 billion per year should the iPhone maker adopt micro-LEDs.

As we explained before, micro-LEDs could pave the way for Apple devices with longer-lasting batteries and brighter screens. As you know, traditional LCD-based screens waste a lot of energy because they require a backlight.

In addition to boosting battery life by as much as 300 percent versus LCDs, micro-LEDs allow for higher-resolution screens with improved color gamut and two to three times the brightness of OLED technology under the same power consumption.

Image: LuxVue’s patent related to commercialization of Micro-LEDs, now owned by Apple.