All iPhone 7, iPhone 8 and iPhone XR devices use LCD monitors. The iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, on the other hand, use higher quality OLED panels. But eventually none of these technologies will be found on Apple devices.
Micro-LED displays should solve OLED burning problems
According to a report by the Daily economic newsFoxconn, maker of the iPhone, is currently expanding its investment in the production of micro-LEDs. Presumably, the company will aim to get orders from a wide range of companies once the technology is ready, but the main focus of Foxconn is the future application to display the iPhone.
Unlike the LCD panels found on certain iPhones at present, micro-LED monitors do not require separate backlight because individual pixels emit light alone. This means that, just like OLEDs, they can be made much thinner than the LCD equivalents.
The disadvantage of OLED is that it depends on organic matter – the "O" in OLED means organic. This is usually not a short-term problem, but after long periods of use, individual pixels may show signs of deterioration, a problem more commonly known as burn-in. And this is where micro-LED panels come into play.
Unlike OLED displays, micro-LEDs do not contain organic substances. Essentially, this allows them to offer deep blacks and high contrasts of OLEDs, while not showing signs of wear like LCD panels. In addition, as an added bonus, micro-LEDs should be clearer and more efficient.
Apple Watch can benefit from technology before iPhones
Apple, like Foxconn, is apparently investing heavily in micro-LED technology for use in its future products. In fact, just over a year ago Bloomberg reported that Apple had a secret factory in Santa Clara, Calif., which was being used by 300 engineers to design and develop displays.
As for when the micro-LED panels will hit the market, the expectation at the moment is that they will not be ready for mass production by 2023 at the earliest. And even then, it's unlikely to be used on iPhones right away.
This implementation strategy largely mimics Apple's early plans for OLED. Although the monitors have not been used on iPhones until the iPhone X of 2017, the Cupertino giant used the panels of the Apple Watch models since the original launch in April 2015.
Apple's short-term display plans: OLED and mini-LED
Regarding Apple's short-term plans, there are reports that iPhone 2020 programming will switch to OLED exclusively, which means that the third-generation iPhone XR will eventually leave the LCD monitor.
Moving to 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently predicted that Apple could begin to adopt mini-LED screens. This technology is essentially a less advanced version of the micro-LED – it is less dense and less efficient – but it must solve the current durability problems involving OLEDs.
It is not clear at the moment whether Apple has plans for mini-LED displays on Apple Watch or whether the Cupertino giant will simply skip the technology and wait for the availability of micro-LED panels.