FRANCE: Dr. Eric Virey, Senior Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole) has commented that, “MicroLED displays could potentially match or exceed OLED performance in all critical attributes.” This includes brightness, contrast, color gamut, refresh rate, viewing angle, ruggedness and durability, resolution and pixel density, lifetime and power consumption etc.
Yole and its partner Knowmade, both part of Yole Group of Companies, have already released two microLEDs reports to reveal the status of the technology and give a deep understanding of the industry, the companies involved and the related supply chain.
Sony’s demonstration of a full HD 55” microLED TV at CES 2012, more than six years ago, was the first exposure for microLED displays and generated a lot of excitement. Since Apple acquired the Luxvue in 2014, many leading companies such as Facebook, Google, Samsung, LG or Intel have entered the game via sizable internal developments and acquisitions, like those of mLED and eLux, or investments in startups such as glō or Aledia.
Analysing Apple’s microLED patent activity shows that the company essentially halted its filing around 2015. This is a surprising finding in the light of the fact that the consumer electronics giant has maintained a large project team and consistently spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually on microLED development. A closer analysis however, brought up the name of a possible strawman entity used by Apple to continue filing patents and shows that the company is still advancing key aspects of microLED technologies.
“Despite a later start compared to pioneers such as Sony or Sharp, Apple’s portfolio is one of the most complete, comprehensively covering all critical technologies pertinent to microLEDs,” explained Dr. Virey from Yole. “The company is the most advanced and [is] still one of the best positioned to bring high volume microLED products to the market. However, it also faces unique challenges”, he added.
Apple can’t afford to tarnish its brand and introduce a product featuring such a highly differentiating technology that would be anything but flawless. Moreover, it requires high volumes, which makes setting up the supply chain more challenging than for any other company. In addition, the company has no prior experience in display manufacturing and due to its need for secrecy, has to develop pretty much everything internally, which requires the duplication of technologies and infrastructures that others have the option to outsource.
The smartphones sector is a good example to illustrate the leadership of Apple. Indeed, smartwatch volumes could reach 100 million units by 2027 and Apple has the potential to remain the single largest smartwatch maker, explained Yole’s analysts in microLED reports. Yole’s scenario assumes that Apple would start using microLEDs in 2021 in a new flagship model, and, as is common with the brand, will propagate the technology in a staggered fashion over the next three years as legacy products are discontinued.
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