Samsung Display has unveiled the RGB version of Micro OLED (OLEDoS) for the first time at CES 2024, presenting the industry’s reportedly highest-resolution RGB OLEDoS display screen.
As per Samsung Display’s news release, Samsung Display has indicated that Micro OLED achieves high-definition displays with small pixel sizes, achieved by applying organic materials to silicon wafers, playing a crucial role in the increasingly popular XR headsets.
Although the Micro OLED is only 1.03 inches, it has a pixel density of 3,500 PPI, making it the industry’s highest resolution RGB OLEDoS display, which utilizes red, green and blue OLEDs on silicon wafers to generate color without the need for a separate light source.
Samsung has previously acquired Micro LED developer eMagin last year. In addition, there are reports indicating that Apple is developing the second generation of Vision Pro, expected to be unveiled in 2027. It is rumored to adopt advanced RGB OLEDoS technology, and the acquisition of eMagin by Samsung also positions them to provide the necessary technology for Apple.
If Apple is interested in upgrading its Vision Pro 2 display tech, Samsung’s exhibit at CES 2024 could be considered a showcase, proving that its Micro OLED technology is gradually gaining ground, and that it has a potential chance of replacing Sony as a Vision Pro 2 display supplier.
Based on a recent analysis by TrendForce, LG Display is encountering a challenge with its supply of 6.7-inch panels and chassis for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The issue revolves around tolerance, leading to the development of a growing dark spot (GDS) once the components are assembled. Unfortunately, this problem has hindered the successful passage of quality verification tests. Consequently, LGD’s production timeline is anticipated to face a one-month delay, awaiting the resumption of shipments following the completion of revalidation later this month. To manage the reduced panel supply during this interim period, Samsung Display (SDC) will step in and provide supplementary support.
From the standpoint of downstream assembly facilities, the adjustments in supply have the potential to impact production operations in Zhengzhou for approximately two weeks. It’s projected that by ramping up production subsequently, these effects can be mitigated.
On a different note, BOE has successfully achieved its goal for this year by participating in the development of panels for both the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. However, owing to recent quality concerns necessitating mask adjustments, they might encounter a significant decrease in shipments. Simultaneously, since SDC is a key supplier for these two new models as well, they will step up to fill the void created by BOE’s supply shortfall.
Taking a historical perspective on BOE’s involvement in supplying iPhone panels, their journey began with the iPhone 12, providing components for repairs, and subsequently transitioning into regular supply for the iPhone 13. Their prowess in LTPS and OLED technology has been acknowledged. However, with the introduction of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models, which incorporate the Dynamic Island design featuring a center-hole punch, the demands placed on the panels have become more stringent. The alteration in mask design is likely a pivotal factor that requires additional time for BOE to optimize panel yield and quality.
TrendForce underscores that the issue pertaining to panel quality only marginally affects the overarching shipping schedule for the iPhone 15 series. Its main consequence lies in the reshuffling of panel suppliers, while SDC continues to assert its dominance as the primary supplier of new model iPhone panels this year, accounting for nearly 70% of the market share.
Apple’s latest MR device, the “Vision Pro,” utilizes Micro OLED technology. This technology, along with Micro LED, is considered the next generation of display technology. So what are the differences between Micro OLED and Micro LED, and which one is better suited for AR/VR/MR devices?
According to market research firm TrendForce, ideal smart glasses must meet three major criteria. Firstly, to minimize the burden of wearing glasses, the display engine’s size should be below 1 inch. Secondly, in terms of content recognition requirements, the display brightness specification should reach at least 4,000 nits to ensure immunity to external factors such as weather or venue conditions. Lastly, the resolution should be at least 3,000 PPI to ensure clear projection and magnification.
Currently, Micro LED and Micro OLED are the primary technologies that meet these requirements. However, Micro LED is still in the early stages of AR technology development and faces several challenges that need to be overcome. Therefore, Micro OLED is currently the mainstream technology in the field.
Micro OLED technology enables full-color capabilities and has become the preferred choice for AR/VR manufacturers. According to TrendForce’s comparison of display engines, Micro LED outperforms Micro OLED in pixel size, luminous efficiency, and brightness. It appears to be the most suitable for AR glasses based on specifications. However, Micro LED is currently limited to a single green color, while Micro OLED can achieve full color. As a result, Micro OLED has a competitive advantage in AR/VR devices.
In terms of manufacturers, Sony remains the main supplier for Micro OLED technology. Due to their longer investment time and technological advantages, South Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG Display (LGD) are expected to join Apple’s MR supply chain in 2024.
Last year, reports suggested that Samsung initially considered Micro OLED a niche market and lagged behind its competitor, LGD. However, due to demands from Apple, Meta, and Samsung’s parent company, they began developing Micro OLED in the third quarter of last year. The latest news reveals that Samsung will acquire American Micro OLED display manufacturer eMagin for a price of $218 million.
Meanwhile, Meta will also collaborate with South Korean semiconductor giants SK hynix and LGD to develop Micro OLED panels for Meta XR (Extended Reality) devices. This partnership is expected to lead to more Micro OLED applications in AR/VR in the future.
Micro LED technology is still facing bottlenecks, but it has the potential to surpass Micro OLED in the medium to long term. TrendForce states that Micro LED AR glasses, due to the bottleneck in achieving full colorization, primarily display monochromatic information such as informational prompts, navigation, translation, and note-taking functions. Achieving higher resolutions requires chip miniaturization, reducing the size of Micro LED to 5 micrometers. In this situation, epitaxial processes are affected by wavelength uniformity issues, which impact yield. Additionally, smaller chips raise concerns about the external quantum efficiency (EQE) of red chips.
Overall, although Micro LED faces many challenges in AR glasses, it still outperforms Micro OLED in contrast, responsiveness, lifespan, power consumption, and other specifications. Considering the limitations of waveguide component technology in transparent AR glasses, which restricts optical efficiency from exceeding 1%, Micro LED remains an excellent choice in the medium to long term.
Therefore, if Apple wants to introduce Micro LED technology, it plans to start with the Apple Watch. However, the project’s launch has been delayed from 2024 to a later date, possibly beyond 2025, due to technological bottlenecks. In fact, over the past decade, Apple has invested significant funds in collaboration with ams Osram to develop Micro LED components. Once the technology is ready for mass production, Apple is likely to take charge of the critical “mass transfer” process, which may be carried out at its secret research and development center in Longtan, Taoyuan.
It’s worth noting that in addition to Micro LED, the Longtan research and development center is also where Apple collaborates with TSMC on Micro OLED technology for MR devices.
The stay-at-home economy brought about a soaring demand for TVs, which in turn resulted in a shortage of TV panels in 2H20, according to TrendForce. Also contributing to the bullish rebound of TV panel quotes last year was the fact that most panel manufacturers rapidly decreased their supply of TV panels around this time.
After the upturn of panel quotes kicked off in late 2Q20 and came to a temporary slowdown at the end of the year, this upward momentum once again intensified in mid 1Q21 without warning, and clients on the purchasing end were caught off guard as a result.
TV brands are now at the mercy of panel suppliers since panels are an irreplaceable component in the production of TV sets. Being unable to effectively address the shortage and price hike of TV panels during the current surge in TV sales, TV brands have no choice but to react by buying up TV panels as they become available, thereby further driving up prices of TV panels.
Upward trajectory of TV panel quotes will likely taper in 3Q21 after TV brands successfully retool their procurement strategies.
The movement of prices in the panel market suggests that TV panel quotes will most likely peak at the end of 2Q21, plateau throughout 3Q21, and face downward pressure caused by an expected easing of demand for TVs in 4Q21. Although fourth quarters have traditionally been peak seasons for TV sales, TrendForce expects such major seasonal discounts as Black Friday sales to be cancelled this year in light of persistently high panel prices. TV sales in 4Q21 are therefore expected to be relatively muted as well.
On the other hand, as more and more of the general public receive vaccines, recreational activities, at least in developed countries such as the US, are expected to gradually move from the confines of indoor environments to the great outdoors.
Should this transition take place, TV brands and distributors alike will conservatize their outlooks of TV sales and of safe inventory levels, respectively, with brands lowering their panel procurement and distributors performing appropriate inventory adjustments. TrendForce analysts expect that TV panel quotes will enter a bearish trend in 4Q21 and gradually return to a cyclical downturn in 1H22.