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Apple to Continue to Rely on Korean Suppliers for Custom MicroLED Displays

Apple to Continue to Rely on Korean Suppliers for Custom MicroLED Displays

A new report from The Korea Herald claims Apple will continue to rely on Korean suppliers for its device displays, even as the Cupertino firm pushes forward with its plans to develop more of its own components, giving it more control over its product designs.

Korea’s Institute for Information & Communications Technology Promotion (IITP) says Apple continues to expand its use of in-house components, including chips and displays in its flagship iPhones. Apple’s efforts are part of its strategy to maintain its dominance in the smartphone market.

The report says Apple is planning to begin transitioning its device’s displays from OLED to microLED, starting with the 2024 or 2025 Apple Watch Ultra, to be followed by iPhones, iPads, and eventually also MacBooks.

The IITP believes it may take some time for Apple to completely transition and commercialize its in-house display technology. However, due to how microLED display production is challenging, meaning that manufacturing costs are higher, Apple will continue to source at least 60% of its components from Korean display manufacturers such as Samsung Display and LG Display for the next several years, says the report.

“Apple is expected to outsource display production to Korean vendors in the coming years to save the costs necessary for mass production,” the report said. “If domestic display makers can outsource Apple’s microLED production, it could give them the advantage to catch up with their Chinese rivals.”

Several sources have rumored a new Apple Watch Ultra with a microLED display, including Display Supply Chain Consultants CEO Ross Young and Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman. While Gurman said the microLED transition could begin by the end of 2024, he also said the timeframe could slip into 2025. Young also mentioned a 2025 timeframe, so the use of the technology could be at least two years away.

Although Apple is initiating a move to microLED, the company is still in the process of transitioning from LCD to OLED display technology. The Apple Watch has always used OLED displays since it first hit shelves back in 2015, and iPhone models began a gradual switch to OLED displays starting in the 2017 model year. The first iPad Pro and MacBook models with OLED displays are rumored to be getting ready for a 2024 release.