Apple's high-quality Vision Pro headset still lacks a display maker that meets its standards
Apple is facing difficulties in the production of its Vision Pro headset, which is intended to provide an immersive augmented reality experience. The company is struggling to find a display manufacturer that can meet its high expectations for the micro OLED displays, which are a crucial component of the headset. Due to the intricate design complexities and manufacturing challenges involved with these displays, production forecasts have been significantly reduced. This setback has led to concerns about the availability and pricing of the headset, and Apple is currently seeking a solution to the display conundrum.
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Apple's high-quality Vision Pro headset still lacks a display maker that meets its standards. Vision Pro Headset Display Challenges
Apple has revised its production target for the Vision Pro headset, with plans to manufacture less than 400,000 units in 2024, down from the original goal of 1 million units within the first year. The complex design of the headset, specifically the micro OLED displays, is the main challenge. These displays, which are the size of a postage stamp, are different from the OLED displays used in smartphones and are deposited on silicon wafers, which adds to the manufacturing complexity and cost. Although micro OLEDs offer impressive pixel density of 3,000 pixels per inch (PPI), six times higher than glass OLED displays, the cost of silicon wafers, vulnerability to manufacturing defects caused by tiny dust particles, and absence of mass production capabilities contribute to the high prices of micro OLED displays. Apple's high-quality Vision Pro headset still lacks a display maker that meets its standards
The cost of two micro OLED displays for the Vision Pro headset is estimated to be around $700, which accounts for almost half of the total manufacturing cost of the product. Sony, a company with expertise in micro OLED technology used in digital cameras, is currently responsible for producing displays for the initial version of Apple's flagship headset. However, Sony is hesitant to scale up production due to uncertainties surrounding the future growth prospects of the mixed-reality headset market. This hesitation creates opportunities for Korean competitors, such as Samsung Display and LG Display, to emerge as leading suppliers of micro OLED displays for Apple's headset. Samsung Display recently acquired eMagin, a US micro OLED producer, and is in the process of establishing a manufacturing facility for micro OLEDs in South Korea. In contrast, LG Display showcased its own micro OLED prototype earlier this year. Apple is reportedly collaborating with both Samsung and LG on future iterations of the headset, including a more affordable version targeting the mass-market segment.
Apple is Unwilling to Compromise on Display Quality
Apple is determined to maintain its commitment to high-quality micro OLED technology, despite exploring alternative display options. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, reportedly refuses to compromise on display quality, even for future mass-market models. This unwavering dedication poses a challenge for display makers, as meeting Apple's stringent requirements for micro OLED displays is no easy feat. The industry as a whole struggles with yield rates and the high cost of production, making it difficult to reduce prices in the near future.
Yi Choong-hoon, a display industry expert and head of UBI Research, suggests that Samsung Display is well-positioned to supply micro OLED displays for Apple's second iteration of the headset. However, he emphasizes that the industry-wide yield rates are currently suboptimal, and reducing micro OLED prices will be challenging due to the ultra-compact nature of the pixels and the high cost of silicon wafers.
Moreover, Chinese companies may face obstacles in supplying micro OLED panels to Apple due to potential military applications and export controls imposed by the US.
Concerns About Display Availability Continue to Rise
Display makers face a challenge when allocating resources towards a niche product like the Vision Pro headset. The display sector is highly competitive, and companies like Samsung and LG prioritize OLED displays for TVs, tablets, and foldable phones due to their immediate market demand, which requires significant investments to improve production yields. Apple's pursuit of high-quality micro OLED displays for the Vision Pro headset demonstrates their commitment to providing exceptional user experiences. However, the difficulties in manufacturing these displays have led to production setbacks and uncertainties about the headset's availability. As Apple continues to search for a display maker that can meet its expectations, the future of the Vision Pro remains uncertain, leaving consumers eagerly awaiting further updates from the tech giant.
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