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Apple Vision Pro shipments could reach 600k this year

Apple's entry into VR/AR market shines the spotlight on spatial computing and Micro OLED technology, says TrendForce

As Apple prepares to open pre-orders for its Vision Pro mixed reality headset, TrendForce reports that if initial sales are strong, Vision Pro shipments could reach between 500–600 thousand units in 2024, partially thanks to Micro OLED technology.

Vision Pro’s debut turns up the spotlight on the idea of spatial computing — a technology that allows users to engage with virtual objects in a manner that is said said to feel as natural as reality. Spatial computing featured at CES 2024, with companies like Sony announcing their XR head-mounted device focused on intuitive spatial content creation and interaction, and others like Qualcomm, HTC, Asus, JORJIN, and RayNeo showcasing their VR/AR products, potentially heated by industry anticipation of Vision Pro.

Battery life and application integration

The main issues impacting the Vision Pro are battery life, limited applications, and a hefty price tag. However, some of these bottlenecks are likely to be resolved, says TrendForce. Although the Vision Pro requires an external power source or a portable battery, its focus isn’t on gaming and users do not need significant mobility, making external power sources a feasible option. The portable battery offers a comparable two-hour lifespan to current mainstream VR devices.

Post-launch, Apple has helped application development for Vision Pro by releasing a suite of developer tools and compatibility assessment platforms. This initiative ensures that existing applications can be adapted to the new platform, reducing barriers for Apple developers to create new services.

TrendForce says the $3499 price point, although steep, is expected to resonate with the market, especially given the promise of ample applications, a quality user experience, and Apple's established brand loyalty. Additionally, should Apple introduce a more budget-friendly version as speculated, the premium pricing of the Vision Pro could serve to accentuate the value proposition of the more economical model, potentially driving consumer interest towards it.

Chinese Micro OLED giant to join Apple’s supply chain

For the Vision Pro, high-resolution and refresh rate displays are essential for enhancing the immersive experience and preventing users from noticing pixilation. There are two main technological directions for Micro OLED: One uses white light OLED with colour filters (WOLED), which, despite its high resolution (exceeding 4000 PPI as demonstrated by Sony in 2018), leads to significant loss in brightness.

The other method involves direct deposition of RGB pixels, improving brightness but lagging in resolution competition due to FMM limitations. Samsung-acquired eMagin uses SiN shadow mask (SNM) to achieve 2645 PPI, and FMM developer APS is using Laser Patterning technology, aiming to reach 4000 PPI by 2024.

The Micro OLED display used in Vision Pro, currently supplied exclusively by TSMC CMOS backplanes in combination with Sony’s deposition process, faces a production yield rate of only about 50 percent. This low yield contributes to the high cost of US$700 per pair of Micro OLED panels and limits Sony’s actual supply capacity to around 1 million panels this year, underscoring Micro OLED's pivotal role in influencing the cost efficiency and production scalability of Vision Pro.

Consequently, diversifying Micro OLED suppliers has become an urgent focus in Apple’s supply chain strategy. Alongside Sony, Apple is actively exploring partnerships with Chinese Micro OLED giant SeeYA, potentially bringing them on board as a secondary supplier as early as the third quarter of 2024.

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