Apple cancels its microLED wearable display project

Apple entered into the microLED display industry in 2014, following the company's LuxVue acquisition. Since then the company has been very active with microLED development, with a first goal of replacing its wearable OLED displays with its own microLED displays. 

Apple Watch

Apple started developing microLED displays for wearable devices years ago, first aiming to launch the first product in 2023. The project was delayed several times, as the cost of production for microLED displays was too high for Apple, to the point where it was suggested Apple's goal is to launch the first microLED watch in 2027. One of Apple's key microLED partners, ams-Osram is is building a $850 Million 8-inch microLED epiwafer factory in Malaysia, and yesterday ams-Osram announced that its "cornerstone project" (it did not name Apple specifically) got unexpectedly cancelled. 


Apple's move to cancel its microLED project may have wide implications for the microLED industry. Osram already announced it will need to re-assess its microLED strategy (and it believes it will have impairment charges of $650-$900 million). While Apple is only one of many microLED developers, it has a strong effect on the display industry's psychology - and other companies may perhaps now reconsider their microLED strategy and goals. 

It is clear that moving microLEDs from prototype production and pilot production to full scale commercial production is extremely challenging, on both the cost perspective, and the performance perspective. Our own estimates, and one backed by MicroLED Association members, is that while microLEDs have high promise and are likely to be the display technology to replace OLEDs, it will likely take at least 5-10 years for the technology to mature in most display segments. 

The MicroLED Industry Association will be hosting a meetup next week, originally planned to discuss its microLED standards effort, but will also use the meeting to conduct an open discussion around Apple's move, the implications to the industry - and how companies should align their strategy going forward.

These will be interesting times for microLED developers and supply chain companies, as the effect of Apple's move will ripple through the industry. There will be risks - but also high rewards for companies that take advantage of recent industry changes. We believe our platforms such as the MicroLED Association and MicroLED-Connect will prove vital for companies in the near future. MicroLED-Connect's OLED innovations virtual meeting on April will be even more interesting now, as companies will look more closely on how future OLED displays will compete with microLEDs.

This news could be positive for the OLED industry, as companies may shift R&D and investments back into OLED technologies as the timeline of microLED adoption may prove to be longer than expected. This could be a vital time for companies to make sure their market, technology and industry information and expertise are updated. Our recently published OLED Toolbox can be a great way to achieve just that.

Posted: Mar 01,2024 by Ron Mertens