Apple Makes Surprise U-Turn For Future Apple Watch Ultra – Forbes

Rumors suggest Apple had plans to use a different screen type in the next Apple Watch range, but those plans appear to have evaporated, for now at least.

Apple has reportedly cancelled its order of micro LED watch displays with a leading supplier. These displays could potentially have featured in the Apple Watch Ultra 3 due later this year.

Leading Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the order was cancelled in part because the change in tech would not bring enough of an improvement to justify the component cost.

“My latest survey indicates that Apple has canceled the Micro LED Apple Watch projects because Apple thinks that Micro LED can’t add significant value to this product, and the production costs are too high to make it economically viable,” Ming-Chi Kuo wrote on X.

This coincides with a statement from leading microLED manufacturer Ams OSRAM, signalling the cancellation of a major project with a partner.

“The Management Board of Ams OSRAM AG has decided to re-assess the microLED strategy of the company after having been informed of the unexpected cancellation of a cornerstone project for its microLED program,” reads the statement. “Discussions with the related customer are ongoing.

microLED screens combine the best elements of the OLED and miniLED screens used in Apple’s Apple Watch and MacBook Pro lines.

They use per-pixel lighting like OLED but are likely to be significantly more efficient, brighter and even more color-rich.

However, as with almost any nascent tech, the costs will be significant for a while.

There is some disagreement over exactly how much should be taken from the cancellation of this microLED order, though.

Ming-Chi Kuo says “Osram was Apple’s exclusive LED chip supplier for Micro LED,” and that “the company’s cancellation of its Micro LED collaboration with Apple means that Apple has no plans to mass-produce Micro LED devices in the foreseeable future.”

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who is also a notable Apple insider, took a polar opposite view in a recent tweet.

“AMS-Osram was one supplier in the Apple Watch Ultra microLED project. There are several others. I doubt it was canceled,” Gurman wrote.

From the consumer’s point of view there is a question of how useful a microLED’s benefits would be anyway. The Watch Ultra 2 can already reach 3000-nit brightness, which is bright enough to deal with direct strong sunlight outdoors.

Today’s microLED TVs are typically very large and very expensive, and this tech hasn’t been brought anything close to the scale of a watch in an actual product. Each pixel has three separate lit sub pixels in a microLED TV, because there’s typically no color filter in these displays. Some rethinking of how microLED operates may be required to bring it down to Apple Watch size.

In late 2023, a company called Q-Pixel showed off what it called the world’s smallest color pixel, just 1 um in diameter. It uses a “tunable” LED capable of displaying a range of colors from the same unit. These were arranged into a 10000 pixels per inch demo microLED array. Apple Watch-scale microLED screens are therefore possible, but whether they are yet remotely feasible within a mainstream consumer product is another question.

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