Apple is poised to make an even bigger bet on OLED technology by releasing the first iPad and MacBook models featuring OLED displays in 2022, according to a new supply chain report.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • OLEDs currently power Apple Watch and iPhone 12.
  • OLED screens could come to Pro-branded devices.
  • Non-Pro hardware might stick with LCDs, however.
  • Enhanced LCD backlights are in the works, too.

An image showing the M1 MacBook Air set against a dark background, with the lid half open

This tidbit comes via a preview of a DigiTimes story, released ahead of the full report that should be published by tomorrow. The preview simply reads: “Apple to adopt OLED displays in iPad, MacBook.” We’ll be making sure to update the story when the full report is released.

Analysts are also expecting an OLED iPad in 2022. A recent rumor has alleged that Apple may purchase OLED panels for Mac notebooks from its frenemy Samsung.

Apple’s use of OLED so far

We’ve been hearing about this transition for some time now.

Apple started using OLED screens years ago on the Apple Watch. In 2017 with the release of the iPhone X, perks like deeper blacks, high contrast, higher resolutions and other benefits of OLED technology would become available to Apple’s smartphone users.

But because OLED panels are notoriously difficult and expensive to produce, with Samsung Display pretty much ruling the market for OLED panels, it’s no surprise that it’s taken three years for Apple to transition its entire iPhone lineup to OLED screens—the 2020 launch of the iPhone 12 family has finally brought an all-OLED lineup, for example.

What about mini-LED and microLED?

Apple has also been researching with its suppliers emerging display technologies that could bring some of the OLED perks to its LCD devices. To achieve this, the Cupertino giant has been working on two related technologies for years now: mini-LED and microLED.

Both refer to a backlight module featuring miniaturized LEDs rather than a few larger LEDs. Mini-LED and microLED technologies don’t change how LCD panels work, but they do increase picture quality. You get much better contrast with richer colors and deeper blacks, for instance.

Because these backlights are made up of thousands of tiny LEDs arranged in a grid behind the panel, you get localized dimming zones. Apple’s Pro Display XDR, for instance, uses an array of 576 local dimming zones in its backlight to achieve contrast levels.

In theory, Apple could save OLED screens for higher-end devices like the iPad Pro or the MacBook Pro whilst continuing to use LCD panels enhanced by mini-LED/microLED backlights on non-pro hardware like regular iPads, the MacBook Air and so forth.

Indeed, DigiTimes last month said that Apple was working towards a MacBook Pro featuring a mini-LED display for a release sometime in the second half of this year.