Rumor: OLED-Equipped MacBook Delayed as Development Hits Roadblock

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 3 Nov 2021

MacBook half shut

According to a supply chain report, Apple was planning to bring OLED display technology to MacBooks in 2025 but this has now been delayed as the company is struggling to contain costs and mitigate problems associated with incorporating the relatively complicated display technology in a laptop.

For context, Apple presently dabbles with four different display technologies:

  • Conventional IPS LCD as seen on older Macs and budget iPhones.
  • IPS LCD with mini-LED backlight technology — Apple is using this on the iPad Pro and now on the new MacBook Pro. Compared to conventional LCDs, these displays deliver enhanced contrast and sharpness.
  • OLED — Apple first used this display technology in the Apple Watch and then in the iPhone, starting with the iPhone X. The technology has not been deployed for iPads and MacBooks but developments are rumored to be in the pipeline. OLEDs promise pitch black blacks, better power efficiency than LCDs, and vivid yet accurate color reproduction.
  • Micro-LED — not to be confused with mini LED, this technology is a sophisticated version of OLED where each backlight element is subdivided into several smaller elements. This technology is brighter, more efficient, and less prone to burn-in than OLEDs. Apple has expressed interest in this technology, but it is still in the nascent stages and far from being production-ready.

A supply chain report by The Elec claims that Apple has initiated talks with South Korean display panel suppliers to manufacture OLEDs for its MacBooks and iPads. The company planned to launch its first OLED-equipped MacBook in 2025 but people familiar with the matter reportedly said that the plans are likely to be postponed. Meanwhile, OLED-equipped iPads could launch in late 2023 or 2024 as Apple struggles to keep the costs associated with the incorporation of OLED technology at bay.

The report said, “Current OLED panels in smartphones have a single stack structure where there is only one emission layer of red, green, and blue.

It (Apple) is attempting to apply a two-stack tandem structure on the panel it procures from Samsung and LG. The structure stacks two layers of red, green, and blue emission layers, which doubles luminance and extends the panel’s life span. It also needs thin-film transistor (TFT) technology that acts as switches for the pixels.

Doubling the emission layer doubles material costs. The TFT will also need to support fast electron movement. This means low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) will be applied but this technology requires 15 to 16 masks during production, which further increases costs.”

Our Take

This supply chain report should be taken with a pinch of salt since it is highly speculative. Moreover, it is too early for suppliers to have definitive information of technologies Apple should still be developing. Supply chain rumors are more accurate when they discuss products rumored to be in the early to late stages of production, just before they hit store shelves. That said, we are certain that Apple will eventually incorporate OLED or a superior display technology in iPads and MacBooks in the future.

[Via The Elec]