Don’t Expect a Bargain: MicroLED Apple Watch Ultra 3 to be Pricier than iPhone 15 Pro Max

The much-anticipated Apple Watch Supreme 3 that was originally planned for release at the same time as the iPhone 16 series might be postponed by a couple of years. Not the typical Supreme, but the one with an innovative microLED display that will greatly enhance the Apple Watch line battery life and display brightness, two of the most crucial features the company needs to improve for its otherwise excellent tough timepiece. Why, you ask? Apple and microLED displays Cost infeasibility Apple has been investing in microLED research and development for years, hoping that the technology could eventually replace the OLED panels that it currently relies heavily on Samsung and LG for. The Korean Institute for Information & Communication Technology Promotion has produced a study on how the shift to microLED displays could affect Samsung or LG’s display businesses. It suggests that there might be initially fewer orders as Apple is developing the superior screen technology in-house, but it could later outsource the production to LG or Samsung to make up for it. As part of its display technology and supplier diversification efforts, Apple has been moving forward with its own microLED technology, with the goal of gradually reducing its reliance on OLED panels from Samsung, LG, BOE, or any future suppliers it manages to find. Apple is expected to begin equipping its Supreme series with microLED panels first, just as it did during the OLED screen transition. This was supposed to happen this year, and, after assessing the performance of microLED technology, Apple was then set to replace the OLED panels on its iPhones and even iPads with microLED ones. As previously mentioned, the benefits of microLED technology are numerous, such as much lower power consumption, hence longer battery life with the same battery pack capacity compared to OLED screens. They are also brighter on average and have the near infinite contrast of current OLED displays, so why wouldn’t Apple opt for microLED? MicroLED displays have a more economical and luminous structure $1500 for a microLED Apple Watch? microLED 2-incher > 15 Pro Max 6.7-incher We won’t keep you in suspense. Apple will have to almost double the retail price of the Supreme 3 if it decides to release it with a microLED display instead of the current OLED panel. Reportedly, it is exactly the inability to lower the microLED display price of an upcoming Apple Watch Supreme with the new screen technology that will delay its release. The same goes for all other Apple devices that are set to be equipped with microLED screens, like iPads, iPhones, and even Macs. Apple reportedly downscaled its microLED ambitions to debuting it only on a Supreme 3, alongside the iPhone 16, as producing such displays at scale turned out to be more challenging than expected. A white paper by the MicroLED Industry Association concluded that such an Apple Watch Supreme 2 might cost twice as much as the current Apple Watch Supreme OLED display. When is a 2-inch screen more expensive than a 6-incher? However, a newer research suggests a much more prohibitive cost difference. According to market research firm Omdia, the display manufacturing cost estimates for an Apple Watch with a 2.13-inch microLED panel would be $115. Korean display industry insiders, on the other hand, suggest that local companies have run a microLED panel manufacturing simulation and come up with an even higher number at $150 apiece. Compare that to the $38 Apple is currently paying for the Watch Supreme 2 OLED display, and you’ll see why Cupertino’s team is hesitant to proceed with the initial 2024 release plan. Following Apple’s typical MSRP strategy, it means that it will have to release an Apple Watch Supreme 3 with microLED display at around $1500 instead of the current $799. Consequently, the sales team from Cupertino may have rightfully concluded that there won’t be as many customers for its timepiece at a price point that surpasses the iPhone 15 Pro Max starting tag. In fact, Apple would have to pay more for a 2-inch Apple Watch panel than it currently pays Samsung or LG for the 6.7-inch displays of its iPhone 15 line that cost $120 at most. Summary Don’t wait with bated breath In short, don’t expect Apple microLED display devices anytime soon, even if they are only in the Supreme line. A microLED iPad or a microLED iPhone are even farther down the road unless there is an unexpected manufacturing cost breakthrough. Until then, we will likely have to accept the relatively short Apple Watch series battery life, as the official “up to 36 hours with normal use” specification isn’t even close to reality.

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