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OLED Killer? Apple Has Big Plans for Micro-LED Screens

Apple won't be relying upon Samsung's OLED displays for long, according a new report.

Apple has been rumored over the last several months to be working with Samsung Display on an OLED screen for its iPhone 8, expected to hit store shelves this fall. Apple has historically used LCD for its iPhones, making the shift to the more colorful OLED a big one for the company.

Micro-LED displays may come to the Apple Watch and then iPhones. Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Micro-LED displays may come to the Apple Watch and then iPhones. Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide)

However, Apple apparently is looking to the future and in 2014 acquired a company named LuxVue that was working on micro-LED technology.

Later this year, Apple could start manufacturing a new display technology called micro-LED. The technology, which has been highly regarded for its detail and efficiency, could be used to replace OLED screens that would come baked into future Apple Watch and iPhone models, reports from Business Korea and Apple Insider say.

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Micro-LED has been generally unknown to all but those who closely follow screen technology. It uses microscale LEDs to deliver what many say are better image quality than you might find in other screen technologies. Better yet, micro-LED doesn't cause too much of a battery drain. Display Daily reported in 2015 that at an industry trade show where micro-LED was shown off, it was called "the only potentially disruptive technology."

Apple, then, appears to be in the right position. The company has a firm it's acquired that's working on micro-LED, and if it can find a suitable manufacturing partner, could soon have a stranglehold on the screen technology that could ultimately displace OLED.

According to Business Korea, Apple's micro-LED work is causing some consternation in Korea, where Samsung Display and LG Display are hoping to grow their OLED business. If Apple can get micro-LED up and running and get suitable supply off the production lines, its reliance upon the OLED makers will diminish.

Apple is said to be considering using micro-LED in the Apple Watch Series 3 that could make its debut later this year. If that goes well, Apple will attempt to build out production on the panels and may bundle the technology in future iPhones. Exactly when that might happen remains to be seen.