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Apple could be switching to hybrid OLED displays for future iPad models

Space Gray iPad 2021 in landscape orientation
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

According to TheElec, Apple could be using "hybrid" OLED panels in the first iPad with OLED that may be coming in several years. Current iPad models are still using LED or mini-LED displays, so an iPad with an OLED display is still a bit of a ways off.

What is hybrid OLED?

But what’s a hybrid OLED panel? It is an OLED panel that features both rigid OLED panels but has flexible OLED panel technology. A rigid OLED panel has glass substrates, whereas flexible OLED panels utilize mostly polyimides, which are encapsulated for protection. So a hybrid OLED panel would use glass substrate like rigid OLED, while also having the protection of a thin-film encapsulation from flexible OLED.

A lot of the current smartphones on the market right now use flexible OLED panels for displays, and Apple isn’t too keen on that for the time being, according to inside sources. The reasoning for this is because those flexible OLED displays end up looking crumpled, and that’s just not a good look when Apple is always focused on the hardware design. However, this trait of flexible OLED panels is not super noticeable on small smartphone screens, which can be around 6-inches, but rather it’s more noticeable on larger tablet and computer screens, ranging from 10 to 20 inches.

Why do the crumples happen? It’s because of how flexible the OLED panels are made. When OLED panels are being manufactured, polyimides varnishes in liquid form end up deposited on top of the substrate, and the glass is eventually removed by lasers. The remaining polyimide that is solidified ends up being plastic substrate, and during the laser removal process, some parts of the polyimide may appear warped from the heat.

There is one big reason why Apple may be considering hybrid OLED instead of using flexible OLED panels, which are currently used for the best iPhones. And while the advantage of flexible OLED is well, the fact that they are flexible, they do have shortcomings like the crumpled look. However, if those flaws can be solved, then Apple may end up using them.

Don't expect a hybrid OLED iPad anytime soon

Some of Apple’s biggest competitors, Samsung Display and LG Display, are already working on developing an ultra-thin glass substrate that would be used in hybrid OLED panels. The goal for these hybrid OLED panels is to have glass substrate that is 2mm thin instead of 5mm which is currently on the market. However, this process is far from the commercialization stage and will take at least another year.

Apple is holding its annual iPhone 14 event next week on Sept. 7, which will also include updates for the Apple Watch Series 8 and more. We don’t expect new iPads next week — instead, it seems that we may have an Apple event in October that could focus more on the best iPad and Mac.

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.