Apple could launch OLED MacBook Air as soon as next year – thanks to Samsung

Screenshots from WWDC 2022
(Image credit: Future)

The hotly-anticipated OLED models of the MacBook Air could be closer than expected, with both Samsung and LG now roped in to develop new displays for Apple, according to Chinese tech news site The Elec.

We’ve known for a while that an OLED MacBook has been on the cards for Apple, with multiple tipsters claiming in recent months that the tech giant is shooting for a potential 2024 release.

The new information provided by The Elec has finally put some hard truths to these rumors, with evidence that Apple has specifically contracted Samsung to produce OLED panels for a new 13.3-inch MacBook Air. The ‘LiquidRetina’ mini-LED displays found in the current-generation M2 MacBook Air could finally be on the way out, with informers claiming that OLED’s power efficiency and brightness make it an attractive move for Apple.

This move is likely to cause some heads to shake at Samsung’s rival company LG, which has historically been behind Apple’s screens. Apple lacks the resources and expertise to develop displays itself, so outsources production to other manufacturers.

LG is, however, apparently developing OLED screens for new 11- and 13-inch iPad Pros. Speculation from The Elec suggests that LG simply didn’t have the capacity to take on an order for new OLED MacBook Air panels, leading Apple to approach Samsung’s display division instead. Samsung may also be developing an 11-inch OLED screen for Apple, indicating that it may produce some OLED iPad displays too.

Analysis: It looks like Apple’s OLED MacBook Air plans are on track, but I’ve got one big concern

All of this further reinforces the suggestion that Apple will indeed have an OLED MacBook Air ready to go for the rumored 2024 launch date - although it’s unclear whether this will actually be the next generation of MacBooks.

We’ve already seen speculation that Apple will deliver powerful new MacBooks equipped with the Apple M3 chip this year, including a MacBook Air (2023), and it seems unlikely that those new OLED panels will be ready to go in 2023 - so we might see one more interstitial release before Apple’s mini-LED screens get dumped for good.

The Elec’s report claims that the 13.3-inch OLED panel being developed for a future MacBook Air will serve as a trial run for larger MacBook Pro models - while the planned OLED iPads may themselves be a test for implementing the technology into MacBooks. It appears that Samsung was previously contracted to develop a 10.86-inch OLED screen for an unreleased iPad Air model, but that project was ultimately canned due to concerns over supply and reliability issues.

I’ve still got one big fear, though: pricing. The latest MacBook Air already saw a significant price jump from the still-excellent 2020 M1 model, and there are fears that a planned OLED iPad Pro might be much more expensive than its predecessors - to the point where it could cost more than a current-gen MacBook Pro.

In a world of rising inflation, stagnant wages, and a widening gulf between the rich and poor, this sort of tech hardware price-gouging really bothers me. Sure, MacBooks have always been premium products (you’ll probably never see one on our best cheap laptops list), but Apple is running the risk of appearing elitist here.

If an OLED iPad Pro is going to cost a bomb, I’m seriously concerned about what OLED MacBook Air pricing could look like. The worst part of it is that the Air is supposed to be Apple’s more accessible laptop - leave the ludicrous pricing for the MacBook Pro please, guys. If we get a 2024 MacBook Air that costs more than $1,199, I’m gonna be annoyed.

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.