Apple plans to introduce a number of new products in the next two years that will sport a new display technology, according to master Apple watcher Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities.
Based on Kuo’s predictions, which were reported widely on Tuesday, Apple will use new “mini LED” technology in three new products:
- A 31.6-inch monitor, launching in the second or third quarter;
- A new iPad with a 10- or 12-inch screen in late 2020 or 2021; and
- A new MacBook with a 15- or 17-inch screen in the first half of 2021.
Mini LED technology offers improvements over traditional LED displays, according to LEDinside, an online publication of TrendForce, a technology market intelligence company in Taipei, Taiwan. Mini LED screens have better color-rendering performance and enable more high dynamic range categories.
Mini LED products are as thin as those using OLED technology so they consume less power than traditional LED screens, and they cost 70-80 percent less to produce than OLED displays, although their performance is similar.
They also don’t have the “burn-in” problems of OLEDs, and they last longer.
With their wide color gamut and high-contrast features mini LED displays could give Apple’s laptops and displays an edge over competitors, Kuo’s research note suggests.
The first of the expected mini LED products, the 6K 31.6-inch monitor, could appear as early as June, but it’s more likely to make its debut in September.
The monitor will be an “all new design,” Kuo wrote, so it’s likely to have thinner bezels and a sleeker appearance than its predecessor, the Cinema Display.
The backlight unit used in the new monitor will be made of some 500 LED chips of about 600 microns, according to Kuo.
Technically, that’s a bit bigger than standard mini LEDs, which are about 100 microns in size, but the new demand for the “quasi mini LEDs” is expected to give the supply chain an opportunity to improve production costs and yields.
The monitor will be a very high-end product, Kuo predicted. That means two things: It will have a high price tag, and it won’t be a high-volume item.
The new monitor will help Apple build street credit with the professional content-creation community, noted Ashraf Eassa, writing for The Motley Fool.
It not only will signal that the company is in tune with professionals’ needs, but also will provide Mac Pro buyers with an optimal screen for their system, he pointed out.
It’s unlikely that the resulting display sales will have much of an immediate effect on Apple’s business, Eassa acknowledged, but building credibility in the pro market ultimately could pay future dividends from increased Mac revenue and market share.
Ten thousand mini LEDs will be needed for the new 10- or 12-inch iPad, which will use “true” mini LED chips at densities 20-25 times greater than those used in the 31.6-inch monitor, according to Kuo.
The chips will be produced by Epistar, while the panels for the units will come from LG Display and the backlight units from Radiant Opto-Electronics, he added.
All three companies will form the supply chain for the mini LED MacBooks.
If Kuo’s prediction of a 15- or 17-inch MacBook is correct, Apple would be breaking with the model’s past. MacBooks have been positioned between the entry-level MacBook Air and the high performance MacBook Pro line. As such, they’ve had 12-inch displays, while 15- and 17-inch screen sizes have been reserved for Pro models.
However, there may have been a translation error in the report. Kuo referred to 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, not 15- and 17-inch MacBooks, according to Apple Insider.
Making Apple More Competitive
Some mini LED displays already have started to appear in public.
“At CES, Asus demoed a mini LED display in a product aimed at artists and other creative professionals,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology advisory firm in Hayward, California.
Embracing mini LED technology could give Apple an effective way to compete against 8k and other high-resolution displays, he noted.
“Plus, by entering the market early, Apple could help drive mini-LED innovation and garner much of the capacity for itself,” King told TechNewsWorld. “That would fit in with Apple’s history of preferring exclusive or proprietary technologies.”
Although Kuo didn’t mention iPhones in his research note, King sees an opportunity for Apple there, too. “Since mini LED is reportedly more energy efficient than other technologies, mobile devices, including iPhones, could benefit from mini-LED components.”
The technology could benefit the company in another way.
“If Apple’s mini LED partners can provide components that are both unique and used largely or entirely by the company, they could help its products stand out from the crowd,” King observed.
While the upcoming crop of products with mini-LED displays could give Apple a sales boost, it remains to be seen if they can offset a shrinking iPhone market.
“Price remains the biggest problem for iPhone sales, and these displays are more expensive and will likely be used as an excuse to again raise prices,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Oregon.
“Margins are Apple’s sustaining problem, and these displays don’t address that so they may drive a faster replacement cycle, but the trend of a shrinking installed base is likely to continue,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Moreover, mini LED may be a short-lived technology. Mini LED is a transitional technology between LED and Micro LED, LEDinside explained.
Micro LED has all the advantages of OLED with the added plus of not needing backlighting.
The Mini LED market “is promising in the next two or three years,” LEDinside noted, but “Micro LED will become a superstar in the future.”