Apple devices are always the most talked-about techs in the town. Whenever any launch event comes, the whole world waits for the announcement with the utmost eagerness. Even this time, the new 12.9 inch iPad Pro has created more hype than the previous apple gadgets. And people claim it as the best iPad Apple has ever launched.
It’s not for the advanced pro cameras, thunderbolt or ultrafast 5g connectivity, or even its thin, sleek design. Instead, the hype is because of its mini-LED display, which has changed the experience of viewing content. Though there are already advanced display panels like- OLED, QLED, or QNED available on the market, this new mini-LED display of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is considered a giant technological leap in the display world.
But “Why this mini-LED display is getting too much attention from tech enthusiasts?” And “Who is behind this amazing innovation of mini-LED?” is yet to know.
Why is Mini-LED Special?
To know the specialty of mini-LEDs, first, we should go through “What mini-LED are and how they work?”
As we know, all the LCDs or OLED screens work by emitting lights using the backlights or reflectors it has underneath. This is all the game of those backlights and light polarizers that enhance the experience of your movie watching on TVs or laptop screens. However, there were always complaints or issues on the grayish effect on dark parts of the images we see on the screen. Thus to solve those issues, technologies like – local dimming was invented where particular zones of the screen can entirely block the light and provide darker, high contrast images.
Still, the blooming effect stays on the screen, which means the area near the lighting parts keeps reflecting. So the solution was to get smaller lights to lessen the effect. That’s where the mini-LEDs were invented and came across better high contrast ratios.
As, Mini-LEDs are lesser than a tenth of one millimeter in size, so it becomes possible for the LCDs to fit more LEDs under the screen and create smaller zones for lighting control. Even the Sesus and TCL that have used mini-LED technologies in their Smart TVs in 2020 had about 1000 individual zones under their screen. And this newest form of LED technology doesn’t require a deep pocket to buy.
So why will the tech giant Apple be left behind from using this technology? Depending on the OLED comparable effect of mini-LED LCD screens, Apple first debuts the mini-LEDs on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro in 2021, and they gave it the name “Liquid Retina XDR.” According to Apple, this XDR screen can reach 1000 nits of full-screen brightness, and parts of the screen can also hit an eye-searing 1,600 nits for HDR content, which is brighter than many 4K HDR TVs on the market.
Although iPhone 12 Pro’s OLED screen can hit a max brightness of 800 nits and an HDR of 1,200 nits, iPad Pro provides much better. Thereby, while this new revolution of mini-LEDs is bringing wonders to Apple iPad Pro, let’s take a peek at the company behind these mini-LEDs.
Company Behind Mini-LED
It will be better to say companies behind the Mini-LED because the company supplying them is a merger of two flourishing Taiwanese LED suppliers: Epister and Lextar. On January 6, 2021, both companies came together and established a new company named Ennostar.
Now Ennostar is the biggest supplier of Apple’s 10000 mini-LEDs and is doing wonders for the mini-LED industry. So now there might be a question: if the companies are already flourishing, why did they merge?
Learning about the individual companies is essential if you want to know why they merged. Let’s start with Epistar. Epistar was founded in November 1996, and from the start, they were focusing on the R&D and manufacturing activities of LED epi and dies products. With their tremendous expertise, profound knowledge, and the advantage of a full-spectrum product portfolio, Epistar could satisfy various customer demands and become a leading brand of global dies supplier.
The company holds over 4,400 LED patents, including many patents of core upstream aspects of the mini-LED technology. Though they have to face several M&A and cross-licenses with first-tier LED companies, Epistar still managed to hold some unique innovation patents in their hand. Also, in 2018, EPISTAR spun off three central business units, and till 2019 the company had revenue of NTD 15.96 billion. So, all in all, Epistar was one of Taiwan’s big LED suppliers.
However, don’t think Lextar less in any space. Though Lextar was founded in 2008, it was a subsidiary of AU Optronics, one of Taiwan’s biggest display makers. Their product specialties were displays and automotive applications. The manufacturing includes Opto-semiconductor epitaxial, chips, packages, modules, and integrated solutions, and the range of applications includes LCD backlighting, R/G/B display, automotive lighting, professional lighting, sensing, and UV.
Also, for manufacturing all those LED parts, Lextar has two manufacturing sites, one in Taiwan and the other in China, with around 3500 employees. With that, Lextar also had a turnover of USD 300 million in 2019. So when the companies have such great turns, what made the company merge?
What’s the Reason Behind Epistar and Lexter Merger?
In simple words, the reason is Apple. The 2019s rumors of Apple releasing several mini-LED technology display products in their 12.9 inches iPad Pro, 14.1 inches, and 16-inches MacBook Pro in 2020 and 2021 triggered these companies to merge.
Even according to a report of the LEDinside research division of TrendForce, Apple was pushing forward the mini-LED backlight technology. As a result, the demand for Mini LED chips will hike significantly and is expected to reach an 18% penetration rate in the overall market for IT products in 2025. So, it was easy to assume that the launch of Mini-LED-based products via Apple could be a nudge for the rising company Epistar and Lextar to alliance together.
Rather than fighting with each other foto get Apple’s contract, they decided to compete with Mainland Chinese companies in the LED industry. Also, where Epistar already had the advantage of supplying Apple’s major division of Apple’s mini-LED products so why not conquer the whole?
Hence, to take the order from Apple, Epistar had increased its capital to TWD 6 billion, which was equal to USD 202.90 million, just for expanding Mini LED capacity. However, raising such massive money in Mini-LEDs was a risky decision. Merging with Lextar for creating a whole Mini-LED technology for Apple was a wise decision. And for Lextar, it was a chance for its mother company, AUO group, to gain a possibility to step into Apple’s supply chain with their panel production.
As Dr. B.J. Lee, Chairman of Epistar, said in terms of display application, LED technology has to win out in the competition and widen the gap to be ahead of other competing technologies within the shortest time. Also, according to Trendforce, it was estimated that the merged company would collectively account for 12.43 percent of the global LED chip production capacity after formation.
Thus in 2020, these two Taiwanese LED developers announced their plans to establish a joint holding company with a share conversion ratio of Epistar for 0.5 ordinary shares of ENNOSTAR and one share of Lextar for 0.275 common shares. And they set the date of converting shares at October 20, 2020. But as both of the companies had subsidiaries in China, they had to pass the review procedure of the Chinese antitrust authorities. Finally, they got the green flag, and they eventually merged in January 2021. Though the companies were united, they operate separately on different LED parts.
And the whole work process of Ennostar was divided into three parts. Epistar focused on the LED epitaxy and chip where the Lextar worked on the packaging and module. And the third part was given to Unicorn Semiconductor Corp. under Epistar, which works to develop an advanced compound semiconductor foundry. Thus, focusing on the rapid development of mini/micro-LED display and the next-generation compound semiconductor market, the new holding company Ennostar set a high standard for industrial collaboration and resource integration in Taiwan.
And look what they got, the chance for supplying 10,000 Mini-LED Display for iPad Pro and bringing a new revolution for the LED display world. The company now holds 12% of global LED chip capacity, with crucial scales in this increasingly competitive industry.
However, holding this lucrative position in the LED industry won’t be too easy for Ennostar, where companies in South Korea, Germany, and China are expected to catch up soon in 2022. Hence, Ennostar has to keep up with its innovation and investment in the R&D of mini-LEDs and eventually move towards the micro ones to cope with Apple’s demand and push the display industry forward.