The future's bright: microLED is coming to Apple and Samsung smartwatches

Cutting-edge microLED tech will deliver better, brighter, more interesting wearable displays

Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Apple)

The best smartwatches are brilliant things, but they could be even brighter: microLED displays promise to be brighter than the OLEDs in today's smartwatches, capable of even more than the 2,000 nits peak brightness of the Apple Watch Ultra. And the tech is destined for both the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch too.

That's according to a new report from South Korea, as reported (opens in new tab) by Sammobile, that says Samsung is beginning to commercialise microLED for smartwatches. Samsung Display is a key Apple supplier, and we've already seen reports that Apple is keen to get microLED onto your wrist.

What's so good about microLED?

microLED – not to be confused with mini-LED, which is in some of today's best TVs –  is the next step beyond OLED for mobile devices and wearables. Like OLED displays it's self-emissive, so there's no backlight to worry about, but it promises to deliver even higher brightness, better contrast and more accurate colour reproduction. Most importantly of all from a wearables perspective, microLED should be more energy efficient than OLED – so that means longer battery life too.

As ever with new technology, microLED is still comparatively expensive to produce: costs only really come down when manufacturers find the most efficient production methods and start shifting serious volumes. So in much the same way that OLED started off as terrifyingly expensive before making its way into ever more affordable phones, the same thing is likely to happen with microLED in smartwatches.

Apple reportedly intends to start with the Apple Watch Ultra in late 2024 or 2025, replacing its current LTPO OLED display, before bringing the tech to more affordable models in the Apple Watch range. Samsung's trajectory is likely to be similar.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).