Apple set to move from OLED to micro-LED for future iPhone and Watch displays

Apple Watch 8 on wrist
(Image credit: Shutterstock / DenPhotos)

Apple has reportedly outlined plans to begin using proprietary custom displays in its new mobile devices from 2024 onwards, in a bid to reduce reliance on component manufacturing partners like Samsung and LG.

Bloomberg’s resident Apple expert, Mark Gurman, claims that Apple is preparing to transition its pocket-sized products from OLED to micro-LED, with a new iteration of the Apple Watch Ultra set to become the first beneficiary of the emerging flat-panel display technology. “Other devices, including the iPhone” will follow in the Ultra’s footsteps, though Gurman notes that the changeover will take several years. 

Apple has supposedly already drawn up a workable design for its in-house micro-LED displays, though the company isn’t expected to actually produce the screens itself. That responsibility will likely fall to TSMC, which currently manufactures Apple-designed CPUs and GPUs for a variety of Apple products, including the best iPhones and best iPads.

Micro-LED is a relatively new – and eye-wateringly expensive – display technology that combines the high brightness of mini-LED with the endlessly deep blacks of OLED. In micro-LED screens, three tiny (read: microscopic), non-organic LEDs are housed in each pixel, allowing for more color variation between adjoining pixels. 

Apple Watch Ultra in use on wrist and on table

The next iteration of the Apple Watch Ultra could feature a micro-LED display (Image credit: TechRadar)

Per Gurman’s report: “The next-generation [Apple Watch displays] are designed to offer brighter, more vibrant colors and the ability to be better seen at an angle. The displays make content appear like it’s painted on top of the glass, according to people who have seen them, who asked not to be identified because the project is still under wraps.”

In other words, the next Apple Watch Ultra (and, by the sounds of things, future iPhones) will be exceptionally bright – though, of course, that also means its price is likely to balloon, making it an even harder sell for everyday consumers. 

Given Apple’s reported commitment to developing in-house micro-LED displays, we can’t help but speculate on the possibility of seeing a full-blown Apple TV (no, not the streaming service) arrive in the coming years, too. Not even Samsung has yet been able to bring micro-LED display technology to the consumer market, so there’s still some way to go on that front, but the mere idea of an Apple-branded micro-LED TV has us excited for the future of home entertainment.

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.