Apple introduced mini-LED displays in their lineup of products with the 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro earlier this year. So far, the iPad Pro is the only device from Apple to feature mini-LED display tech but that’s about to change soon. The forthcoming MacBooks later this year are rumored to sport mini-LED displays as well, adding another product line in Apple’s belt that features mini-LED. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that this shift in displays will have a pervasive effect on the industry, accelerating the development and investment in Mini-LED screens significantly.
What is Mini-LED?
Mini-LED is very similar to standard LED displays, only that it features smaller diodes that are more efficient and produce better colors due to the increased amount you can fit in the same surface area. Micro-LED, while quite similar in name, is entirely different and resonates much more with OLED than convention LED. Apple is actually working on both mini-LED and micro-LED tech, but due to the latter’s exorbitant prices at the moment, Apple’s focus is on mini-LED until at least 2023.
We predict that the production cost of Micro LED will improve significantly starting in 2023–2024, so it will likely be a market focus from 2023 onwards. We believe Apple is developing Micro LED technology, but the production schedule is not yet confirmed.
Why Mini-LED Matters To Apple
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities—a financial services group in the Asia-Pacific region, has detailed in a recent investor note that Apple’s adoption of mini-LED is will increase interest and viability of investors who will be propelled to invest in this technology. This development will prove to be very beneficial for Apple as more players will enter the game, bringing down the average cost and reducing the risk of restricting supply to only one manufacturer. In fact, Apple has already partnered with Luxshare Precision to distribute the load of mini-LED production from its only pre-existing supplier, Taiwan Surface Mounting Technology, and to make sure demands are met without any delays or supply constraints
Furthermore, Kuo outlines that the reception of mini-LED in this year’s MacBooks will ultimately dictate whether the industry shifts to mini-LED as rapidly or not. If the feedback is more positive than negative then manufacturers will be forced to comply with the bar Apple has set. Which means that they’ll have to adopt mini-LED tech in their product portfolios. Wider adoption will lead to cheaper costs, which will end up suiting Apple even more in the end. Even without rivals joining the mini-LED bandwagon, Apple will likely see better costs and improved supplier availability after upcoming MacBooks’ launch. The reason why Apple is the only one seemingly interested in mini-LED right now is because it’s more expensive, so it’s not feasible for more main mainstreams, mass-market brands to use them.
Apple has more capital than we can imagine therefore it’s easy for them to invest in mini-LED and drive the innovation of this emerging tech forward. If successful, others are bound to follow suit. Apple wants to eventually shift their entire lineup of products to mini-LED but they’re struggling to diversify their suppliers. Once the upcoming MacBooks ship with mini-LED, it will open new doors for other manufacturers to implement it in their devices and bring forth more suppliers who’re willing to produce mini-LED on a large scale. This will lead to better economies of scale for everyone as more and more companies will be interested in a stake in mini-LED. See how this all comes back full circle?
MacBook Over iPad
According to Kuo, Apple sees MacBooks as the catalyst for mini-LED’s growth despite the current-gen iPads being already kitted with mini-LED. iPads sell a lot more than MacBooks do, so it makes more sense to give them a USP that will push their sales further. Kuo goes as far as to say that Apple expects MacBook shipments to rise up to 20% year-over-year because of the introduction of mini-LED. It goes without saying that whenever Apple unveils something new to the world, it takes on like wildfire and competitors lineup behind Apple to offer their own iterations. Hence, a 20% increase in sales will inevitably solidify mini-LED in the industry and everyone will be suddenly interested, ready to jump on the display tech.
We [Apple] believe that MacBooks, not iPads, mainly drive Mini LED panel shipments. MacBook shipments have not grown much in the past few years. However, we expect MacBook shipments to grow significantly by 20% YoY, or more in 2021 and 2022, due to the adoption of Mini LED panels, Apple Silicon, and all-new designs.
The new MacBooks that will ship with mini-LED in Q4 of this year are reportedly bringing back MagSafe after a version of the notorious tech made a comeback in yesteryear’s iPhones. Also returning is an SD Card slot and a HDMI port. Moreover, the TouchBar will be ditched and a revamped design will be introduced. There will be two models, a 14-inch MacBook Pro and a 16-inch MacBook Pro, both featuring new Apple silicone that will most likely be the M1X, an upgraded version of the original M1. And, just like the 24-inch M1 iMac, the new MacBooks are rumored to be available in various different colors.