Apple’s use of mini-LED panels in its forthcoming MacBook lineups will catalyze supplier investment and push the entire industry toward adoption of the display technology, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple’s upcoming redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are expected to feature mini-LED displays. In his latest investor note, seen by MacRumors, Kuo says this will stoke strategic supplier investment in the technology, which will allow Apple to diversify supply risk and bring down production costs.
We 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 redesigned 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models due this year are expected to feature next-generation Apple silicon chips, the removal of the Touch Bar, the return of the MagSafe magnetic power cable, and an overall new design with an HDMI port and SD card slot.
Kuo believes that Apple is already “actively looking for second suppliers of key Mini LED components,” and if its mini-LED notebooks receive positive feedback, other notebook makers and their suppliers will inevitably be pushed towards adoption of the technology.
Apple is also developing a thinner and lighter version of the MacBook Air that will have thinner bezels than the current model. Rumors suggest it will have a 13-inch mini-LED display, which will be an upgrade over the existing MacBook Air’s display.
Looking ahead to 2023, Kuo singles out Apple’s work on micro-LED technology as the next major display market disruptor.
Though the names are similar, there are notable differences between micro-LED and mini-LED displays. Mini-LED is the same as LED backlighting that’s used today but with many more LEDs for more dimming zones, while micro-LED is similar to OLED with self-emissive pixels that can each be independently lit.
Apple is working on micro-LED technology as well, but mini-LED will come first in iPads and Macs because micro-LED technology is so expensive right now.
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.
Apple is planning to hold multiple events this fall to launch new iPhones, Apple Watch models, updated AirPods, a redesigned iPad mini, and redesigned mini-LED MacBook Pros, according to Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman.