Apple Inc. is planning to start using its own custom displays in mobile devices as early as 2024, an effort to reduce its reliance on technology partners like Samsung and LG and bring more components in-house.
The company aims to begin by swapping out the display in the highest-end Apple Watches by the end of next year, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The screens upgrade the current OLED — organic light-emitting diode — standard to a technology called microLED, and Apple plans to eventually bring the displays to other devices, including the iPhone.
The changes are part of a sweeping effort to replace Apple supplies with homegrown parts, an undertaking that will give the company more control over the design and capabilities of its products. The tech giant has dropped Intel Corp. chips in its Mac computers in favor of in-house designs and plans to do the same with the key wireless components in its iPhones.
Samsung is the world’s most advanced manufacturer of displays and has been producing its own version of microLED for TVs. But by bringing the screens in-house, Apple could, in the long run, better customize its devices and maintain a stronger hold on its supply chain.
Apple’s screen switch has been underway for years. The move will deal a blow to Samsung Display Co. and LG Display Co., the two main suppliers of the watch’s screens.
The company has begun testing the microLED displays on an update to the Apple Watch Ultra, its new high-end sports watch.
Compared with current Apple Watches, the next-generation 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.
The microLED displays will be Apple’s first screens designed and developed entirely in-house. The company currently sources screens from a range of manufacturers, including Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp., and BOE Technology Group Co., in addition to Samsung and LG.
In the near term, the new displays are the most significant changes coming to the Apple Watch. The company plans to introduce new models at the end of this year, but they will be modest updates focused on faster chips and minor health sensor upgrades. Apple hasn’t updated the main processor inside of its watch for three years.
The company has also customized the displays for its upcoming headset, which will use similar technology to the microLED screens coming to the Apple Watch. While it will take years before Apple moves the iPhone to microLED, it plans to bring OLED technology to the iPad with the Pro model in 2024.
Apple accounts for 36% of LG Display’s revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung, which competes with Apple in the smartphone market in addition to serving as a supplier, gets about 6.6% of its sales from the iPhone maker.