February 10 – Apple is reportedly working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to develop micro OLED displays for its forthcoming augmented reality (AR) device. The two corporations are refining the component at the iPhone maker’s lab in Taoyuan, Taiwan.
The project is still in the trial phase, and the next-generation displays will not be mass production ready for several years. The models being worked on are less than 1-inch in size.
The Big Tech giant is also testing a new screen solution for its laptop, smartwatch, and tablet products using microLED technology.
Apple-TSMC Micro OLED Collaboration Details
Apple enlisted TSMC to help build its micro OLEDs because of the latter’s experience manufacturing complex, ultra-small electronics at scale.
As opposed to older technologies, micro OLEDs do not utilize glass substrates like LCD-based screens. Instead, the technology requires that the displays be built directly on the chip wafer. That unconventional fabrication technique allows for maximum energy utilization and greater thinness. Those attributes are crucial to developing an AR product with broad appeal because they allow for a device size.
Apple knows its smart glasses product will need to be lightweight to bring in iPhone level sales. Consumers will not flock to a product so bulky it becomes uncomfortable to wear for long periods. At the same time, the offering must offer exceptional visuals and decent battery life to live up to the standards set by the corporation’s past releases.
A recent Bloomberg article revealed the manufacturer is focused on making its wearables as easy to use as possible. The firm’s current virtual reality (VR) headset design features a fabric exterior to reduce its mass. Provided Apple and TSMC can make a cost-effective micro OLED display, it could be the breakthrough that mainstreams connected headgear.
Why Apple is Developing New Displays In-House
On its face, Apple’s decision to develop micro OLEDs and microLEDs in-house is surprising. At present, the corporation works with companies like Corning and Samsung to make its device displays. But it has long had an interest in reducing its supplier count to better control its development process and save money.
In the early 2010s, Apple began making its own handset processors, which enabled it to align its software and hardware designs. That engineering unity let the firm create iPhones with best-in-class computational abilities and impressive power consumption rates.
Last year, the corporation announced it would craft all of its computer system-on-chips (SoC) with TSMC handling fabrication going forward. Upon release, its new M1 chipset powered devices offered outstanding performance and battery life that blew away its older offerings. Previously, it depended on Intel to make the processors for its laptops and desktops.
The iPhone 12’s second most expensive third-party component is rumored to be its OLED panel. Apple can cut down on those costs by overseeing the development and production of its AR and other consumer electronics displays. Similarly, it could potentially avoid some of the part shortages that impacted the launch of its latest handsets.
It is also worth noting that Apple is working on a new modem design for its mobile devices. The corporation laid the groundwork for the project in 2019 when it snapped up Intel’s handset data transmission assets. If that initiative bears fruit, it will be able to stop purchasing its most expensive outsourced iPhone component, its Qualcomm modems.
Given its $2.27 trillion market value, Apple has the resources to make all of its electronic parts in-house. Its recent development moves indicate that the manufacturing model is on its long-term roadmap.