Bloomberg reports that Apple is testing out screen manufacture in a California factory close to its headquarters, and that instead of simply replicating the OLED technology used in the screens it bought from Samsung, it’s testing out newer “MircoLED” tech. Compared to more traditional LCD screens which create their images by shining a white backlight through a colored filter, OLED displays have pixels that light up individually. As a result, they can offer richer colors, but also energy savings and inky blacks because where an LCD screen creates blackness imperfectly by blocking out the white backlight, an OLED screen can simply opt not to turn those pixels on for an absolute black.
MicroLED—which made a splash at this year’s CES where Samsung unveiled a giant, modular MircoLED TV—is a further improvement on the tech. Instead of a color filter with an organic makeup (the ‘O’ in OLED), MicroLED has an inorganic color filter made of gallium nitrade, which should give MircoLEDs a longer life, and immunity to problems like burn-in. It’s a somewhat minor step forward, but one you’d want to take if you were just getting into the screen-building business now.
According to Bloomberg, Apple is focusing on Apple Watches for the moment, and making prototype MicroLED displays that could replace the LG-made OLED screens the Apple Watch currently sports. Starting small is probably a wise idea considering that Apple’s previous entry into screen-making was an unmitigated disaster.
Should Apple’s new screen factory experiment turn out to be a success, you likely won’t notice the difference in the end product. But the move could be an early step into shifting the shape of the supply chains that dictate everything behind the scenes, which naturally affects what gets made, how many, and how much they sell for.