Apple is looking for ‘crease-free’ OLED panels for future iPad models

According The Elec (via AppleInsider) Apple will use a hybrid OLED panel for the first iPad it produces with an OLED display, which the report says will happen in a few years. Currently, Apple uses a backlit LCD display on its tablets which it calls a “Liquid Retina” display. The only exception is the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro which uses a mini-LED backlit display that Apple calls the “Liquid Retina XDR” display.

Fear of flexible “OLED panel warping” is one reason why Apple would likely use hybrid OLED for the iPad

What is a hybrid OLED panel? It is a panel that uses a combination of rigid and flexible OLED technologies. For example, a hybrid OLED panel would use rigid glass as the base with a plastic layer of flexible thin-film OLED on top. Apple does not want to use only flexible OLED panels because they tend to wrinkle. This happens because of the heat used by lasers to remove a glass substrate that starts as part of a flexible OLED panel during its production.

As well as being less likely to wrinkle, Apple might also like hybrid OLED panels to be thinner than rigid panels and should also be cheaper to produce than flexible panels. Apple currently uses flexible OLED panels for the iPhone. The report notes that if the issues (including the propensity of these panels to wrinkle) can be resolved, Apple may choose to use flexible OLED panels for the iPad instead of hybrid panels.

LG Display and Samsung Display are reportedly working on an ultra-thin glass substrate for hybrid OLED panels. By replacing the current 5nm substrate with one measuring 2mm, the two companies are trying to reduce the thickness of hybrid OLED panels. The latest update reveals that the new technology is still at least a year away from commercialization, but we’re sure Apple is watching developments closely.

The reason why Apple and other phone makers can get away with using flexible OLED panels for their handsets without crease issues, as this defect isn’t as noticeable on smaller screens like those used for smartphones. However, the wrinkling is noticeable on larger screens like those used for the company’s iPad tablets. And that’s one of the reasons why Apple would probably choose to use a hybrid OLED panel instead of a flexible panel for future iPad models.

Mini-LED displays offer users some of the same functionality as OLED panels

Mini-LED backlit displays offer some of the same features that users receive from OLED displays. Mini-LED displays use smaller LEDs as backlights. Due to their smaller size, up to 120 times smaller than those used in traditional LCDs, these panels have a greater number of LEDs behind the scenes. As a result, instead of the 72 LEDs used on the previous 12.9-inch iPad Pro model, 10,000 mini LEDs are used on the current model. They are arranged in four “dimming zones”, each with 2,500 mini-LEDs, to provide the super 1,000,000:1 contrast these displays can deliver.

As we just noted, mini-LED screens offer a high contrast ratio and they are less likely to experience burn-in which leads to a permanent image seen on a screen. They also offer deeper blacks and more realistic colors. Last year, an Apple executive explained that the mini-LED panel can make the 11-inch iPad Pro too heavy, so the technology was only used on the larger 12.9-inch variant.

Keep in mind that mini-LED panels are considered the next step in LCD display technology. So even if Apple were to use it for all of its iPad models, the company would likely continue to work towards the ultimate goal of offering OLED display iPad models. However, due to the cost, we expect Apple to offer such a feature on the more expensive 12.9-inch iPad Pro first, just like it does with the mini-LED.

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