Apple partners with TSMC to develop ultra-advanced displays

Apple has partnered with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) to develop ultra-advanced display technology at a secretive facility in Taiwan, Nikkei Asia reports.

Apple investing $334 million in new Mini-LED and microLED display factory in Taiwan. (Image: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET)
MicroLED technology is moving from the lab to the market. (Image: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET)

Lauly Li and Cheng Ting-Fang for Nikkei Asia:

The California tech giant plans to develop micro OLED displays — a radically different type of display built directly onto chip wafers — with the ultimate goal of using the new technology in its upcoming augmented reality devices, sources briefed on the matter said.

Apple is collaborating with its longtime chip supplier TSMC because micro OLED displays are not built on glass substrates like the conventional LCD screens in smartphones and TVs, or OLED displays used in high-end smartphones. Instead, these new displays are built directly onto wafers — the substrates that semiconductors are fabricated on — allowing for displays that are far thinner and smaller and use less power, making them more suitable for use in wearable AR devices, according to sources familiar with the projects… The micro OLED project is now at the trial production stage, sources said, and it will take several years to achieve mass production. The displays under development are less than 1 inch in size.

The project is one of two being conducted at Apple’s secretive labs in Longtan District in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan. In addition to micro OLED displays, the company is also working on micro LED technology, and has trial production lines in place for both types, Nikkei has learned.

Apple has hired dozens of veterans from Taiwanese display maker AU Optoelectronics to work on the micro OLED project, one of the sources familiar with the situation said, as well as display experts from Japan and elsewhere… Apple’s other display project at the Longtan campus focuses on micro LED technology, which the company hopes to eventually use in the Apple Watch, iPads and MacBooks. Apple has partnered with Taiwanese LED company Epistar to co-develop the technology.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple partnering with TSMC to develop ultra-advanced displays is no surprise.

In late September, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously written that Apple is prepping at least six iPad and Mac products with mini-LED displays for launch by the end of 2021, but in mid-September he reported that the initial batch of mini-LED displays arriving through the end of 2020 will be for an iPad Pro.

The first mini-LED product looks to be Apple’s flagship 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌, which Kuo says will launch in the first quarter of 2021.

Back in December 2019, DigiTimes reported that Taiwan-based supply chain makers including Epistar, General Interface Solution (GIS), Taiwan Surface Mounting Technology (TSMT), Zhen Ding Technology and Flexium Interconnect were poised to receive orders for components to be used in a 12.9-inch mini-LED iPad Pro that Apple was said to launch in calendar third-quarter 2020.

Earlier in December 2019, Ming-Chi Kuo reiterated that Apple was planning four to six products with mini-LED displays over the next two to three years, including a high-end 12.9-inch iPad Pro for Q320.

Last May, Focus Taiwan reported that Apple planned to expand its investment in Taiwan by building a new plant in the Longtan section of Hsinchu Science Park, northern Taiwan.

This adds further confirmation that Mini LED is ready for the type of high volume production Apple requires as, earlier in December 2019, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reiterated that Apple was planning four to six products with mini-LED displays over the next two to three years.


  1. MDN, why the continued discussion by you about mini LED? Mini LED displays are merely a stepping stone to the real goal of micro LED. I’ve been saying that for well over a year. (I’m not really interested in micro OLED unless they can solve some seemingly inherent drawbacks of OLED.) Sure, mini LED lit LCD is better than cold cathode LCD. But’s that’s like saying, Sony’s Trinitron was better than standard CRTs. They were (and I used several of those Trinitron monitors way back when), but the real leap was from CRTs to LCDs.

    Micro LED is going to revolutionize displays: lower power, higher brightness, greater gamut, greater contrast ratio, etc. Once they get to full wafer size micro LED displays then anything under 12″ diagonal will be a simple “no brainer” implementation. Once they figure out how to do seamless multi wafer implementations we’ll see 30 and 40 inch displays that will be as different from current displays as those LCDs were from standard CRT displays.

    I’m hoping we’ll see micro LED displays in Apple watches and iPhones by the end of 2022. That may be a bit optimistic. I do believe we’ll see micro LED displays up through iPads and small format MacBooks no later than late 2024, hopefully sooner. Will we see 32 – 42 inch “8K” monitors by 2025? We can only hope. For some of us that would be as big a shift as the original 30″ Cinema Display was back in 2004 (of which I went out and got two for may workhorse Mac plus the new, third party cards to drive them).

    Also, once perfected it will be possible to go beyond standard RGB displays. For uses where a six color display is useful, that will become a realistic thing to have. (Note that there are six and eight color printers for this very reason. For 99.99% of users a standard three color, plus black, printer is fine. For certain printing they use many more colors (well, technically, pigments). Micro LED displays could evolve into the same thing.)

    1. Rey interesting what you say about 6 colour displays. I have no idea if that has resonance other than reading years ago that studies I to the eye, and maybe more so beyond human versions, was thought to have additional rods that supplemented the standard RGB ones to give extra colour range though never heard anything more on the subject so don’t know if it is the case. Print of course deals with colour very different to light and the CYMK process attempts to mimic the experience with pigments which has numerous complications especially in consistency therefore you have both extra colours pre mixed to match a set standard like Pantone on a high end commercial printer and as you alluded to extra subtle more vibrant shades like light cyan and pink on for example inkjets to try to improve the vibrancy of light.

      Now whether you need to do similar with actual light emitting technology as it’s an additive process like natural light itself is news to me though at the very top end maybe there is some benefit if only to correct inbuilt errors with the emitters so an interesting suggestion. However the reasoning would not be similar to the print process which is a subtractive colour process by nature. But an interesting thought.

    2. As to your subsidiary point used in your analogy, my clients are unable to detect any qualitative difference between six color and 12 color prints but the higher cost for the latter makes them think.

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