Apple Reportedly Working Towards Mass Production of Thinner and Brighter Micro-LED Displays

Apple is collaborating with its Taiwanese supplier TSMC to solve manufacturing issues preventing volume production of micro-LED display panels, according to DigiTimes.
Apple is reportedly collaborating with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to develop applications based on silicon-based backplanes (silicon wafers) aiming to sidestep the bottleneck that entails with the mass transfer of LED chips, indicated the sources.
In the meantime, the report claims Apple has downsized its micro-LED research and development team at its laboratory in northern Taiwan.

The downsizing doesn't necessarily mean that Apple has delayed or given up development of the next-generation display technology. In addition to its work with TSMC, it's possible that Apple has shifted the bulk of its micro-LED research back to its headquarters in the United States.

Apple's interest in micro-LED was first reported in late 2015, when it was discovered that the iPhone maker opened a secretive laboratory in Taoyuan, Taiwan to research display technologies like OLED and micro-LED for future devices. OLED is currently used in the Apple Watch and iPhone X.

Apple acquired micro-LED display maker LuxVue Technology in 2014, and some of its employees may be part of Apple's micro-LED research team, in addition to former employees of AU Optronics and Qualcomm subsidiary SolLink.

Micro-LED displays have many of the same advantages as OLED displays have over LCDs, including improved color accuracy, improved contrast ratio, faster response times, and true blacks given both have self-lit pixels, but they can be even thinner, much brighter, and more energy efficient than OLED.

Micro-LED displays also have inorganic gallium nitride-based LEDs, which have a longer lifespan than the organic compound used in OLED displays.

Apple was reported to begin trial production of micro-LED displays in late 2017, but it's unclear if the company proceeded with those plans given the manufacturing issues impeding volume production.

Wang Jyh-chau, CEO of LCD display maker Innolux, last year said that Apple's use of OLED displays could be short-lived, with micro-LED eventually becoming the mainstream display technology once it can be mass produced both reliably and affordably. Apple's use of micro-LED would likely begin in 2019 at the earliest.

While micro-LED displays could eventually be used for iPhones and iPads, the smaller-screened Apple Watch would be a good starting point.


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Win Semiconductors Helping Lumentum Make iPhone X’s Dot Projector

Taiwanese manufacturer Win Semiconductors has reported a nearly 24 percent increase in third quarter revenue on a year-over-year basis, driven by the supplier's indirect foray into the iPhone X supply chain, according to DigiTimes.


The firm's consolidated revenues hit a record monthly high of about $1.6 billion in local New Taiwan dollars in September, an increase of 13.4 percent from a month earlier and 44.74 percent from a year ago, the report said.

Win Semiconductors reportedly handles production of the VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) component for Lumentum, which is believed to be one of Apple's primary suppliers for its new TrueDepth facial recognition system.
Market sources said that after beating several competitors, Lumentum is now the only company that has won orders from Apple for VCSEL component as part of 3D sensing modules for iPhone X. As a contract manufacturer of the component, Win Semiconductor has enjoyed stable expansion in VCSEL shipments to Lumentum.
The report, citing sources from Apple's supply chain, said that Win Semiconductor as an indirect supplier has not seen its VCSEL shipments affected by the low yield rates the TrueDepth system is rumored to be facing.

Related Roundup: iPhone X

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iPhone X Production Supposedly Going Much Slower Than Apple Originally Planned

Apple has instructed some of its suppliers to slow down delivery of iPhone X components, according to Taiwanese website DigiTimes.


The report, citing unnamed sources from within Apple's supply chain, claims the suppliers are now shipping only about 40 percent of the components originally planned for the initial production of the iPhone X.

Apple is allegedly waiting to see how many iPhone X pre-orders it receives, and monitoring how well the already-released iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus sell, before fully ramping up production overseas.

However, the report mentions some suppliers still need to step up production to meet the 40 percent requirement due to low yield rates at their production lines, which is the more likely reason for the slowdown.

Essentially, since some suppliers are manufacturing iPhone X parts more slowly than others, Apple could be capping shipments from all suppliers so it has an equal number of all components when the device launches in just under six weeks.

Whatever the case may be, this report provides yet another indication that the iPhone X is proving especially challenging to make.

Just one day before the device was unveiled, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said iPhone X production totaled fewer than 10,000 units per day. In a follow-up research note, Kuo said the device is unlikely to achieve complete supply-demand equilibrium until at least the first half of next year.

All signs point towards overwhelming demand for the iPhone X. Earlier today, Kuo said pre-orders may exceed 40-50 million units. Lower adoption of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and shorter lines at Apple retail stores, also suggest that many customers may be waiting for the iPhone X, but it remains to be seen.

iPhone X pre-orders begin Friday, October 27, followed by in-store availability in limited quantities starting Friday, November 3.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tag: digitimes.com

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Apple Takes Early Step Towards iPhones With ‘Above 12-Megapixel’ Rear Cameras

Apple reportedly has booked production capacity for "above 12-megapixel" camera lens modules at a new factory being built by smartphone lens maker Largan Precision in Taichung, Taiwan, according to DigiTimes.


The report, citing "market rumors," claims Largan is the only supplier that can meet Apple's minimum yield rate. The new factory is reportedly designed to accommodate monthly production of 600 million lens modules.

Largan will allegedly start production in October 2017, suggesting the camera lens modules could be destined for future iPhone models released in 2018 or later, rather than the so-called iPhone 8 this fall.

It is widely rumored that the iPhone 8 will have a vertically-aligned dual-lens rear camera, with optical image stabilization for both the wide-angle and telephoto lenses, but no credible rumors have surfaced about its quality.

Apple improves its iPhone cameras each year, so an increased megapixel count of some kind is certainly still possible this year.

Apple's latest iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, are all equipped with 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras and 7-megapixel front-facing cameras.

Keep in mind that megapixels don't always matter, as even a TV or monitor with 4K Ultra HD resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels only has roughly 8.3 megapixels, which isn't enough to display a 12-megapixel photo at full resolution.

Nevertheless, if this rumor is accurate, then perhaps we'll see an iPhone with a 16- or 18-megapixel rear camera or higher in the future.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: digitimes.com, Largan

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Apple Takes Early Step Towards iPhones With ‘Above 12-Megapixel’ Rear Cameras

Apple reportedly has booked production capacity for "above 12-megapixel" camera lens modules at a new factory being built by smartphone lens maker Largan Precision in Taichung, Taiwan, according to DigiTimes.


The report, citing "market rumors," claims Largan is the only supplier that can meet Apple's minimum yield rate. The new factory is reportedly designed to accommodate monthly production of 600 million lens modules.

Largan will allegedly start production in October 2017, suggesting the camera lens modules could be destined for future iPhone models released in 2018 or later, rather than the so-called iPhone 8 this fall.

It is widely rumored that the iPhone 8 will have a vertically-aligned dual-lens rear camera, with optical image stabilization for both the wide-angle and telephoto lenses, but no credible rumors have surfaced about its quality.

Apple improves its iPhone cameras each year, so an increased megapixel count of some kind is certainly still possible this year.

Apple's latest iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, are all equipped with 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras and 7-megapixel front-facing cameras.

Keep in mind that megapixels don't always matter, as even a TV or monitor with 4K Ultra HD resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels only has roughly 8.3 megapixels, which isn't enough to display a 12-megapixel photo at full resolution.

Nevertheless, if this rumor is accurate, then perhaps we'll see an iPhone with a 16- or 18-megapixel rear camera or higher in the future.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: digitimes.com, Largan

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Apple Watch Series 3 Expected to Debut in Fall 2017, Boosting Manufacturing Partner Quanta’s Revenue

Apple has sourced Quanta Computer as the primary manufacturer of the Apple Watch since the original wearable device began a production ramp-up in late 2014/early 2015 for its official launch in the spring of 2015.

The supplier was again the sole source of Apple Watch manufacturing for the Series 2 models in 2016, and a new article out today by Chinese-language site Economic Daily News has echoed previous reports that stated Apple will yet again keep Quanta as its main Apple Watch supplier for the so-called "Apple Watch Series 3." The move is expected to lead Quanta into a "strong" second half of 2017, further cementing the next-generation Apple Watch's debut this upcoming fall (via DigiTimes).


Additionally, Quanta's income towards the end of the year is poised to rise thanks to the manufacturer's supply of notebooks and servers, but the Apple Watch Series 3 is described as one of the company's biggest assets. Secondary to Quanta, EDN's report today cited market watchers who believe Compal will also be sourced as an Apple Watch supplier this year, but with a focus on older-generation models and not including Series 3.
Quanta Computer is expected to enjoy a strong second-half 2017 thanks to rising demand for notebooks, growing server sales and the release of the next-generation Apple Watch, according to a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report.

Apple is reportedly planning to launch its third-generation Apple Watch in 2017 and the wearable is likely to help Quanta's Apple Watch product line turn profitable. Although Compal Electronics reportedly has joined the supply chain of the Apple Watch, the market watchers believe Apple is likely to let Compal mainly handle older-generation models, the paper added.
While rumors leading into the fall of 2017 have largely focused on the iPhone 8, it is believed that Apple will launch an all-new Apple Watch device this year, perhaps at the same iPhone debut event expected in September. The company used that strategy last fall when it announced and launched the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and Apple Watch Series 2 within the same September timeframe.

Besides the expected new-generation bumps to processing speeds and a longer battery life, Apple Watch Series 3 has been rumored to include cellular connectivity so users could make phone calls, send iMessages, and stream Apple Music without needing to be tethered to their iPhone, with the caveat of an added data plan likely. The Series 3 device is also said to not include any major visual overhauls to the Apple Watch design, keeping the same case and band form factor that Apple has used since 2015.


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Latest Report Claims All New iPhone Models Facing Production Delays

Reports of delays to Apple's upcoming iPhone line-up continued this week, with the Chinese-language Economic Daily News claiming on Monday that production of the so-called "iPhone 8" will not start until between November and December, with production of the more typical "S" cycle upgrades to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus also potentially facing delays.

According to the report, the flagship redesigned OLED iPhone will ship only in small volumes this year, because yield rates at the main manufacturing plants have still not reached the mass production stage.


While there were previous reports indicating that volume production for new iPhone devices has commenced, yield rates at the two main ODMs, Foxconn Electronics and Pegatron, have not yet reached levels that warrant mass production, the report said.
Reports of iPhone delays typically happen every year and don't tend to pan out, but on balance we seem to be seeing more than usual this time around, apparently spurred by claims that Apple has found its redesigned handset particularly challenging to finalize, whether that's because of the intricacies of the customized OLED panel and other key components leading to low or staggered supplies, or problems integrating the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently published a report supporting claims that Apple will debut the OLED iPhone in September, but the device will face "severe supply shortages" for some time. Kuo believes that production ramp-up on the OLED iPhone model won't begin until as late as October-November, two months later than previous ramp-ups in August-September. Similar rumors have been circulated by Bloomberg, analysts from Barclays, and Brian White. Today's report is the most delayed 2017 timeframe for "iPhone 8" production we've seen so far.

Last week claims were also made that the software-side of things isn't going well for Apple either, with rumors that problems with the front-facing camera's 3D sensor could see the feature temporarily unavailable at launch. A purported wireless charging accessory for the iPhone is also thought to be coming later than originally planned.

As for the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD iPhones that Apple is said to be launching alongside the OLED iPhone, volume production is now said to be entering "full swing" in August, which is one to two months later than the normal mass production schedule for Apple's iPhones.

(Via DigiTimes.)

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: digitimes.com

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Low OLED Panel Yield Could Cap ‘iPhone 8’ Availability at 4 Million Units in 2017

Shipments of Apple's upcoming "iPhone 8" could be delayed because of low yield rates at assembly plants and a limited supply of OLED display panels, according to a report published on Tuesday.

DigiTimes cited industry sources predicting that the shipments could end up behind schedule because of the issues, despite chipset suppliers delivering parts early and an increased recruitment drive by companies in the assembly line.

iPhone 8 render by @VenyaGeskin1
The latest speculation comes even though chipset suppliers have begun delivering related parts to the iPhone supply in the second quarter, and iPhone assemblers Foxconn Electronics, Pegatron and Wistron have been stepping up efforts to recruit more workers for their assembly lines in China, said the sources.
As covered previously on MacRumors, Samsung is the main supplier of display panels for Apple's 5.8-inch OLED iPhone, with Apple reportedly having ordered 70 million units from the company this year.

However, although Samsung Display has promised to fully support Apple with regards to the supply of OLED panels, DigiTimes' sources are now claiming only 3 to 4 million OLED-based iPhones will be ready for shipping before the new smartphones are unveiled at a product event slated for September.
Judging from the current supply of OLED panels, it will be difficult for Apple to ship up to 50-60 million OLED-based new iPhones in 2017, the sources indicated.
There have already been rumors suggesting the OLED iPhone will be in short supply when it launches, with the majority of the stock unavailable until later in the year, so today's report doesn't come out of the blue. However, the number of iPhones available at launch quoted by DigiTimes is the lowest we've seen so far.

Apple's so-called "iPhone 8" will be a radical redesign compared to previous handsets, with a glass body and edge-to-edge OLED display that includes an integrated Touch ID fingerprint sensor and a front-facing camera with 3D sensing capabilities, possibly for use with augmented reality software. The new iPhone is expected to be sold alongside upgraded (but standard) 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: digitimes.com

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Apple Said to Aim for Trial Production of Micro-LED Displays by End of 2017

A new report posted by Digitimes today has taken a look into the micro-LED ambitions of multiple companies, including the timeline by which Apple might begin its trial production of micro-LED displays. Although it's yet to be confirmed, Apple is likely to use such display technology on a version of the Apple Watch launched in 2018 or later.

The report, citing industry sources, states that Apple's current aim is to manufacture a "small volume" of products with micro-LED displays towards the end of this year. Reports over the past few weeks have referenced similar timelines for Apple's micro-LED plans, and today's news also corroborates the location of Apple's trial production run, expected to be housed in a plant in Taoyuan, Taiwan.

A few makers engaged in R&D for micro LED display products, despite many technological bottlenecks, are expected to take the initiative to begin trial production in the second half of 2017 at the earliest, according to industry sources.

Apple has been keen in the development of micro LED technology following its acquisition of LuxVue in 2014, and recent market speculations also indicate that Apple is likely to crank out a small volume of micro LED display products from its plant in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan at the end of the year.
Rumors of an Apple Watch with a micro-LED display began last summer, when it was suggested that such a device may launch in 2017, but with the current reports of late-in-the-year trial productions on micro-LED displays it's likely that the 2017 "Apple Watch Series 3" will continue to use OLED technology. In regards to advantages, devices with micro-LED have the chance to be thinner, lighter, see an improved color gamut with increased brightness, and sport higher resolutions.

Apple's production on micro-LED is said to be the final realization of its acquisition of low-power microLED-based display maker LuxVue in 2014. Similarly, Samsung has been rumored to acquire micro-LED company PlayNitride, which is expected to begin a trial production on the displays sometime in the second half of 2017. Foxconn has also announced plans to acquire display startup eLux, "for development of next-generation micro-LED display technology."

Although no direct connection with Apple has been made by the manufacturers, their previous history as suppliers for the Cupertino company points toward either company, or both, as additional micro-LED suppliers for a future generation Apple Watch. According to industry sources speaking on Foxconn's eLux purchase, "The acquisition could provide a fast track for Foxconn to commercialize micro-LED technology," bringing it to a wider range of consumer products.


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Apple Said to Be Increasing Production of Rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro

Apple is said to be boosting production of its upcoming 10.5-inch iPad Pro, making launch of the new form-factor tablet over the next couple of months increasingly possible, according to sources in the Taiwanese supply chain.

DigiTimes reported on Friday that shipments for the company's 10.5-inch iPad Pro are expected to increase to 600,000 units in July, up from around 500,000 units currently, with annual shipments said to reach 5 million units this year, said market watchers.


Previously, reports suggested Apple's manufacturing partners had begun limited production of the new-size tablet in March, when it remained unclear when the device would be announced. Rumors have lacked consensus regarding when Apple will launch the device, with suggestions of an early April event having failed to materialize.

However, since that time, noted KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed there is a "greater than 70 percent chance" that Apple will unveil the long-rumored tablet at WWDC in June, based on the timing of production ramp-up.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is expected to have a similar form factor as the current 9.7-inch model, squeezing in a larger display thanks to narrower bezels. Analysts say Apple is hoping the device will mark the company's resurgence in the tablet market, given that sales of iPads have declined for 13 consecutive quarters, with consumers seeing little reason to upgrade the tablets they already own.

However, at least one Apple pundit has suggested the company could wait until October to launch the 10.5-inch iPad, in order to avoid spoiling the the design of the much-rumored "iPhone 8" with an edge-to-edge OLED display, which is expected to be announced in September.

Today's DigiTimes report also touches on a rumored upgrade to Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with some market watchers claiming the device could begin mass production in June, "with stable shipments in the third quarter". Meanwhile, Apple's sale expectations for its recently launched 9.7-inch iPad are "expected to accelerate Apple's pace on phasing out the iPad mini 4 from the market", according to sources.
Demand for the tablet is expected to pick up strongly starting the end of the second quarter and will reach the peak in the third quarter, increasing the device's monthly shipments to over four million units in June and July, the market watchers noted.
Despite the launch of new iPads this year, market watchers still expect Apple's tablet shipments to fall compared to 2017. Worldwide tablet shipments were around 8.74 million units in the first quarter and the release of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro should shore up the second quarter's tablet shipments to 8.9 million units, claimed the report.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Tag: digitimes.com
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