Apple ‘Developing Advanced Display Tech At Secret Taiwan Facility’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Apple has reportedly taken over a manufacturing facility from Qualcomm as it seeks next-generation iPhone and iPad displays

Apple has reportedly begun operating a research lab focused on next-generation displays in northern Taiwan, as it seeks ways of making its devices such as iPads and iPhones ever thinner and lighter.

At least 50 engineers and other workers are employed at the facility in Longtan, outside of Taipei, with some recruited from Taiwanese display maker AU Optronics as well as from Qualcomm, which formerly ran a display development facility in the building, according to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Apple Watch

Advanced displays

The facility, which Apple launched this year, is focused on building more advanced displays for Apple’s popular mobile devices, in order to reduce the company’s dependence on established display makers, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

Apple is particularly interested in moving to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, which is thinner than its current liquid crystal display (LCD) technology and doesn’t require a backlight, the sources said. OLED displays are currently more expensive to produce than LCDs.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

The iPhone maker currently relies on suppliers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Display, Sharp and Japan Display for display technologies, but developing its own production processes would allow it to reduce those dependencies and outsource production to contract manufacturers such as Taiwan’s AU Optronics or Innolux.

The facility is located in Longtan Science Park in an area with numerous high-tech facilities, a short distance south-west of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.

Secretive facility

While the facility has been registered as Taiwan Apple LLC’s headquarters since October, Apple maintains its presence there discreetly, with no outward indication of the facility’s ownership, according to the report. An Apple logo is displayed in the reception area, Bloomberg said.

Hsinchu Science Park records indicate Apple moved into the facility in April and that it was previously occupied by Qualcomm Panel Manufacturing, beginning in 2008. Apple’s Taiwan headquarters was previously in downtown Taipei.

Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines together generate about $178 billion in annual revenues for the company, with iPhone sales alone accounting for 66 percent of Apple’s revenues.

Advanced display technology is critical to Apple’s ability to continue making new models of its devices thinner and lighter, and in turn driving sales.

Taiwan’s neighbour China is a particularly important market for Apple. In May Gartner found that rising iPhone demand in Greater China had turned the region into Apple’s largest market for the first time, outstripping even North America.

Like other major IT companies, Apple depends upon the Chinese market for fuelling growth. In August Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the unusual step of making televised comments to reassure investors after a slump hit Chinese stock markets.

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