Apple patent hints at OLED displays for Macs (eventually)

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180019371) for “Quantum dot spacing for high efficiency displays,” which promises quantum dot pixel displays on all its devices. The displays would offer “pure color,” provide a faster response time, and use less energy. And, eventually, they’ll come to the Mac.

So far the only products Apple makes with an OLED are the Apple Watch and iPhone X. Other iPhones, iPads and Macs use LCD technology, which offers lower manufacturing costs.

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Apple is reportedly considering Chinese firm BOE as a supplier of screens for upcoming iPhones. The Cupertino, California-based company seems to be looking or ways to shore up its OLED supplies as the iPhone transitions from LCD to OLED displays. 

However, it may be a while before we see iPads and, especially, Macs with such screens. They’re more costly than LED displays and have more of a problem with image retention, or burn-in. TVs and smartphones either don’t display static images frequently or shut off after a few moments to save power, and get around remaining potential burn-in problems with a few tricks like pixel shifting and oversized blue elements, but these have limited effect in a desktop environment where most screens are static and remain that way for hours at a time.

A side note: one of the reasons TV manufacturers like quantum dots is that they allow them to produce TVs with much higher peak brightness. This opens up some interesting possibilities, such as enabling support for “high dynamic range’” TVs that support standards such as Dolby Vision.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the 20180019371 patent: "Quantum dot layers and display devices including quantum dot layers are described. In an embodiment the quantum dot layer includes quantum dots with coatings to adjust the spacing between adjacent quantum dots. In an embodiment, the coatings are metal oxide coatings and may create a charge transporting matrix. In an embodiment, the coatings are core-material coatings. The QD layers may be QD-LED compatible."

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.