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Apple Opens ‘Secret’ Lab To Develop iPhone Screens

Engineers at a “secret” Apple lab in Taiwan are reportedly working to develop innovative new screen technologies for iPhones and iPads, according to unnamed sources “with knowledge of the facility.”

A Bloomberg report today said the lab, which began operating sometime this year, is focused on new ways to make device displays thinner and better. The lab is located in the Longtan District in northern Taiwan and reportedly employs at least 50 people. The building was formerly owned by U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm, according to the report.

Part of Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, the Longtan District is known for tea growing but is also an emerging area for technology, according to the city’s Web site. Earlier this year, the mayor announced an effort aimed at further developing the region’s economy and improving the public infrastructure.

Focus on Efficiency

Apple did not respond to our request for more information about the new lab facility. However, Bloomberg reported that Hsinchu Science Park management office records indicate that Apple began operations in the building in April.

In addition to working on ways to make iPhones and iPads thinner and more energy efficient, Apple is also reportedly exploring the use of organic light-emitting diodes instead of liquid-crystal displays, Bloomberg’s sources said.

The report added that Apple could reduce its reliance on suppliers like Samsung by developing its own proprietary display technologies. That could also help reduce production costs by enabling Apple to outsource manufacturing to smaller partner companies, the article said.

‘Everything on the Table’

IDC analyst Ramon Llamas told us that outside of increasing screen sizes, the key features of our smartphones haven’t changed much for many years. Two notable and recent exceptions include Samsung’s side display, unveiled with the Galaxy S6 Edge, and Apple’s new support for 3D Touch, which allows users to control their devices according to the amount of pressure they apply to the screens of their devices.

What other innovations could become the next big thing for smartphones? “At this point, everything is on the table,” Llamas said. Given Apple’s strong brand and reputation for innovation, reports of a “secret” lab in Taiwan isn’t surprising, he said. “That’s been Apple’s M.O. for years . . . going in a new direction,” Llamas said.

In its most recent financial results, released in late October, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that 2015 would be the company’s “most successful year ever.” Revenues for the year reached $234 billion, up 28 percent over the previous year.

“This continued success is the result of our commitment to making the best, most innovative products on earth, and it’s a testament to the tremendous execution by our teams,” Cook noted at the time, pointing to new offerings that include the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch, iPad Pro and Apple TV.