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Future iPads could use hybrid OLED – here’s why that’s important

iPad Air 5 open on a desk
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple will reportedly adopt hybrid OLED screens for future iPads, which is a big deal since we've yet to see a single iPad or MacBook with an OLED display. 

According to Korean publication The Elec (opens in new tab) (via MacRumors (opens in new tab)), the Cupertino-based tech giant has reservations about using the same flexible OLED technology found on iPhones since the panels tend to “crumple” on screens larger than ten inches. Apple supposedly wants to use hybrid OLED tech to mitigate this effect on iPad screens.

Hybrid OLED panels use a glass substrate just like rigid OLED panels do, but they also use the thin-film encapsulation of flexible OLED panels. According to The Elec’s sources, Apple “isn’t too keen” on using flexible OLED panels for iPads because some parts of the screen may appear crumpled.

Hybrid OLED technology hasn’t yet been perfected. The Elec notes it may take at least a year before it becomes commercially viable. To that end, we may not see iPads using this tech until 2024. According to the report, LG and Samsung are also interested in hybrid OLED for their respective future products. The report says Apple may use flexible OLED panels on future iPads if it can overcome the associated technical issues.

iPad Air 5

Future iPads may use hybrid OLED screens. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Besides avoiding warping issues, hybrid OLED could be more cost-effective. Right now, most ultra-thin glass substrates used on panels measure around 0.5 mm. Hybrid panels are apparently 0.2 mm thick. This would make them more economical to produce.

Rumors, leaks and speculation about OLED iPads have been around for some time. We previously heard that Apple is likely going all-in on OLED iPads in 2024, based on its components partner Samsung Display ramping up its production facilities (via The Elec (opens in new tab)), and other recent claims from analysts like Ross Young and Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple already offers OLED displays on the iPhone 13 series and the Apple Watch 7, but it's yet to offer them on a tablet. The first OLED iPads will likely be a future iPad Pro, building on the current mini LED display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, with reports mentioning second-gen OLED iPads coming in the same year, it seems likely that this technology would eventually appear on the iPad Air, and possibly trickle down to the iPad mini and regular iPad eventually. 

Outlook 

Given the persistence of OLED iPad rumors, we’re inclined to believe these slates will eventually manifest – either in 2024 as reports suggest or some other time in the near future. If such an iPad comes to market, it would likely end up on our best tablets list given how solid Apple’s tablets generally are.

But as always, take any and all reports about OLED iPads with a proverbial grain of salt. And while Apple’s upcoming September 7 event seems like it will mainly focus on the iPhone 14, it’s possible we’ll get some iPad news. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.