Mini-LED Display for iPads: Cost Advantage for Apple?


Dec. 5 2019, Updated 1:16 p.m. ET

Apple (AAPL) analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is here with his new prediction. Kuo suggested that the company is planning to launch its “mini-LED” iPad and Mac Books in 2020, noted CNBC on Monday. Mini-LED is a cutting-edge display technology that is a cut above LED and OLED.

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2020 Apple devices to have better displays

Kuo stated that the iPhone maker is aiming at six mini-LED devices next year. The high-tech iPad Pro is likely to launch in the third quarter of 2020, indicated Kuo’s research note. Meanwhile, the 16-inch MacBook Pro might release in the fourth quarter.

Apple usually has LED and OLED screens for its devices. However, it now wants to bring in path-breaking display technology for two of its ambitious products. Kuo said, “We believe that the mini LED technology will significantly improve productivity and the entertainment experience.” Also, in September, Kuo mentioned the advantages of mini-LED over the LED and OLED, indicated CNBC.

Back in May, Semiconductor Today discussed a report “2019 Mini LED and HDR High-End Display Market Report” by LEDinside, a TrendForce division. The report indicated that mini-LED would make its presence felt in 2019 and compete with OLED. “Apple is also eager to strike collaborations with suppliers in Taiwan and Japan to introduce this technology into desktop displays, notebooks, and tablets,” noted Semiconductor Today.

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What is mini-LED?

Mini-LED is a relatively new technology that only a few electronic devices feature. This display leverages a series of light-emitting diodes or LED that lights up a liquid crystal for a captivating visual image. Currently, Apple uses LCD screens with “Retina displays.” With a mini-LED, the iPhone marker wants to up its game.

Mini-LED is an upgraded version of the LCD screens, says Antonio Villas-Boas from Business Insider India. Also, mini-LED offers a sharp contrast between light and dark parts of the visuals. Further, Boas suggested that there was an upbeat response for TV screens that feature mini-LED for their HDR display and brightness.

Another OLED problem that mini-LED solves is less “screen burn-in.” When we leave an app on our devices unattended for a long time, there is a permanent image reflection. Also, it creates a shadow effect. Kuo emphasized that using mini-LED would prevent those burn-ins. In a nutshell, mini-LED is all about superior display and power-efficiency.

The technology is still evolving, and many electronic device makers are adopting it for its immense potential. Mini-LED can empower smartphones, TV panels, laptops, VR panels, Fitness wear, gaming products, automotive players, and more.

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Micro-LED in Apple Watches

Apple isn’t just eyeing top-notch displays for iPads and MacBooks. The company wants the micro-LED display for the Apple Watch. Back in March 2018, Bloomberg revealed that Apple is aiming at in-house designing and manufacturing of micro-LED screens. Also, in July, 9to5 Mac, citing Economic Daily News, said the company is talking with Taiwanese micro-LED makers.

The report indicated that the Apple Watch will switch from OLED to micro-LED. Also, the first micro-LED-powered Apple Watch will debut in the latter half of 2020, noted the report. Micro-LED is a microscopic version of an LED without a package, reports Semiconductor Engineering in May. Like mini-LED, this display aims for better battery-life, efficiency, and lower burn-in rates.

Mini-LED and micro-LED could lower Apple’s cost

Also, mini-LED and micro-LED might be cost-efficient if made on a mass scale. Denton Chronicle, citing a report by Transparency Market Research, said, “Numerous device makers are combining mini LEDs with OLEDs for two reasons: cost competitiveness and to reduce reliance on OLED providers.”

The LEDinside report said that upgrading to mini-LED from the existing display wouldn’t be complicated or cost-oriented. It stated, “since mini-LED backlight technology only differs from traditional ones in its greater usage of mini-LED chips, panel manufacturers only have to redesign driver ICs, select substrates and reinvest in a few items of equipment.”

There aren’t many details available on the cost of mini-LED or micro-LED. However, by adopting mini-LED, Apple will limit its dependency on Samsung OLED panels, which are a tad pricier. The company might source its mini-LED panels from Avary/ZDT, Epistar, Radiant, LG Display, or others in the future, per Kuo’s notes.

As 2020 approaches, we will keep you updated on how Apple is progressing with these cutting-edge display technologies. So, watch this space for more.


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