Manufacturers have been experimenting with OLED displays on premium laptops, and while the results are impressive, we still have no idea on how they'll stand the test of time. Their maximum brightness and color accuracy are also not quite up to par with the best LCD panels.
According to well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple plans to go a different route and ship updated versions of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro with mini LED displays, possibly as early as Q4 2020. From there, the company would gradually expand its use of the technology to four or six devices from its lineup in the next three years.
The benefit of using mini LED technology is that it offers most of the pros of OLED without the common drawbacks. The way it works is somewhat similar to Apple's new Pro Display XDR, in that it uses a dense array of tiny LEDs as a smart backlight for the display.
OLEDs are known for their high contrast ratios. This is achieved because individual pixels can be turned off completely, and mini LED displays see similar results through something called local dimming of the backlight on what is otherwise a traditional LCD panel. Because pro-level devices require color accuracy but might be used to display static content, there's no risk of running into screen burn-in.
Another advantage of mini LED displays is that they can be made thinner and lighter than normal LCD panels, which matters a lot for mobile devices. However, they shouldn't be confused with micro LED displays, which are something Apple wants to eventually use to replace the OLED screen on its Apple Watch.
Apple VP of marketing Phil Schiller has indicated in an interview the company is willing to go the extra mile to test what's possible to achieve with the latest display technology. And while Kuo's predictions are generally accurate, it shouldn't be a big surprise if Apple decides to take its time before it integrates mini LED screens on its devices.