Apple set to drive microLED revolution, says Yole

Apple set to drive microLED revolution, says Yole

Market news |
By Peter Clarke

A revolution in displays could begin to happen as soon as 2024, courtesy of Apple’s adoption of microLED technology, although the aggressive timing comes with risks, according to Yole Group.

The market analysis firm reports that Apple and its partners, including AMS-Osram, setting up the supply chain to start producing smart watch display in 2024 (see AMS-Osram ready to ramp microLED production in 2024).

Apple’s move is likely to fire a starting gun on a race to larger display sizes. Yole estimates that as of November 2022, display makers, OEMs, startups and production equipment makers have spent US$8 billion on microLED development.  Of that about US$1.7 billion was spent acquiring microLED startups.

These have included Apple’s acquisition of Luxvue back in 2014 for an estimated US$450 million and Google’s acquisition of Raxium for more than US$1 billion.

A new wave of spending driven by manufacturing infrastructure will bring the cumulated microLED effort to about US$18 billion by 2025. This compares with OLEDs’ more than US$150 billion capex since 2006 but shows microLED momentum is accelerating, said Yole.

From small to large

The industry is focusing initially on small display sizes including AR glasses, smartwatches with Samsung interested in TV applications and others focused on automotive displays.

Apple, Osram, AUO, Ennostar, Jade Bird Displays, Aledia, and others are all investing in microLED manufacturing, Yole states. Apple and its supply chain are investing more than US$2 billion in preparing for smartwatch display production.

However, microLED is at a fragile stage in development. A failure by Apple or Samsung could bring the progress of microLED to a halt. A volume driver such as watches and TVs is needed to build up the infrastructure and lower the barrier for entry for other players, Yole said.

Automotive has lengthy and stringent qualification processes but automakers are showing interest in the technology. Yole references PlayNitride, AUO, and Tianma as the leaders pushing strongly and hoping for general adoption by 2027.

Meaningful volumes for TVs are also unlikely before 2027 and the smartphone display remains elusive. Apple success with the smartwatch is a precondition for Apple taking the technology to its smartphones. If that showed a clear advantage in visual appeal rival phone makers would follow quickly.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

AMS-Osram ready to ramp microLED production in 2024

Facebook, not Apple, gets Plessey’s microLEDs

IQE, Micledi form microLED partnership

Globalfoundries’ FDSOI to support microLED maker Micledi

MicroLED startup raises €4.5 million to develop AR microdisplays

Startup microLED display maker boasts 12.3-inch size

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