Likely iPad OLED demand sees Samsung switch plans for more advanced tech

The likely strong demand for iPad OLED models is one of the factors that caused Samsung Display to change its development plans, according to a new supply chain report.

Samsung had been working on an even more advanced form of OLED panel than the type it will make for Apple, but it has now flagged that project…

Context: Apple’s display roadmap

We talked last year about Apple’s display roadmap. It started with the IPS LCD screen with conventional backlighting, which is still used in older Macs and cheaper iPhones.

The next step was the IPS LCD screen with miniLED backlight. Apple switched to this for the iPad Pro models and is now using it in the new MacBook Pro. It allows for darker blacks and brighter whites, and makes a surprising difference.

OLED is gradually moving from smaller screens to larger ones. Apple first adopted OLED in the Apple Watch before introducing it to the iPhone, starting with the iPhone X. The company hasn’t used it in iPads or MacBooks yet, but is expected to. during the period 2023-2026.

MicroLED: Despite the similarity in name to miniLED, it is a completely different technology and is still in a very early stage of development. As with OLED, it’s likely to come to the Apple Watch first, then to the iPhone, iPad and Macs, in that order.

OLED iPads use hybrid display technology

It was originally reported that Apple would launch the first OLED iPad models this year, but Apple scrapped that plan in late 2021, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Actu. Current expectations are that we will see the first OLED iPads in 2024.

For iPhones, Apple uses a type of OLED known as flexible polyamide film. This allows the screen to curl into the case at the edges, allowing for very thin bezels (because the connectors are under the screen, not inside the bezels).

However, scaling a flexible polyamide film on iPad and MacBook screens is tricky, as this flexibility can create warping, which can be seen on larger screens. For that reason, Apple is expected to use a glass-polyamide hybrid film display instead — which combines the flexibility needed for thin bezels with the stiffness needed to prevent warping.

Samsung to integrate its work on Apple’s OLED panel technology

OLED technology is continually advancing, and Apple has reportedly asked Samsung to use a form known as “dual-stack tandem OLED”, which uses two layers of pixels instead of one. Doubling the pixels in this way results in brighter screens, while extending their lifespan.

The latter is an important factor for iPads and MacBooks, which people typically keep around longer than iPhones.

Samsung has also been working on the following generation of OLEDs, beyond tandem panels, and has partnered with Japanese company Ulvac for development work on this. However, The elect reports that Samsung has now brought this project back in order to focus on the tandem OLED iPad panels it will manufacture for Apple.

The South Korean company plans to postpone its investments in the full-cut vertical deposition method that it had been co-developing for more than a year with Japan’s Ulvac.

Samsung Display has started investing in the half-cut horizontal drop method it developed for Canon Tokki, sources said.

Indeed, this last method has already been marketed and is being developed with the aim of supplying OLED panels for tablets to Apple. Cupertino plans to launch iPads with OLED panels.

Photo: Valen Don/Unsplash

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