Apple may have only just launched its first iPhone with an OLED screen, but technology never stands still. The company is reportedly pressing ahead with work on the microLED display technology which is expected to supersede OLED within the next few years.

microLED screens take some of the key benefits of OLED over LCD yet further, offering even greater brightness, color saturation and power efficiency …

A Digitimes piece initially sounds pessimistic, reporting that Apple has downsized its microLED R&D team in Taiwan, and that the company is struggling with some of the practical manufacturing aspects of the technology. The company was earlier this year reported to be moving into trial production.

Apple has reportedly downsized its R&D team for development of Micro LED display products in Longtan, northern Taiwan, due to issues related to mass transfer of Micro LED chips onto receiver substrates, according to sources from Taiwan’s upstream LED suppliers.

The slow progress in the development of the mass transfer technology is believed to impede related panel makers from realizing volume production of Micro LED panels in the short term, and therefore persuading Apple to realign the personnel of the Micro LED team, said the sources.

However, it goes on to note that Apple may be cutting the size of the team simply because that phase of the research is complete, with further R&D work being carried out in the US. It also suggests that Apple is collaborating with TSMC on an alternative approach to the manufacturing challenges.

Apple is reportedly collaborating with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to develop applications based on silicon-based backplanes (silicon wafers) aiming to sidestep the bottleneck that entails with the mass transfer of LED chips, indicated the sources.

Apple has been looking ahead for some time to microLED technology, acquiring LuxVue – a company specialising in the field – back in 2014.

As with OLED, it’s likely that microLED will make its way to the Apple Watch before it reaches iPhones. It had at one point been suggested that this year’s Watch might use the technology, with a later report stating that it could happen next year.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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