Micro LED, also known as micro-LED, mLED or μLED, is an emerging flat panel display technology. As the name implies, mLED displays consist of arrays of microscopic LEDs forming the individual pixel elements. When compared to the widespread LCD technology, mLED displays offer better contrast, response times, and energy efficiency.
Along with OLEDs, mLEDs are primarily aimed at small, low-energy devices such as smart watches and smart phones. OLED and mLED both offer greatly reduced energy requirements compared to conventional LCD systems. Unlike OLED, mLED is based on conventional GaN LED technology, which offers far higher total brightness than OLED products, as much as 30 times. It also does not suffer from the shorter lifetimes of OLED, although the multi-year lifespan of modern OLEDs has mitigated this issue in most roles.
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.
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.