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2 More Insights From Apple Inc.'s Job Boards

By Ashraf Eassa - Dec 17, 2016 at 2:28PM

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The tech titan is showing continued investments in a tried-and-true display technology and potential further vertical integration as it bulks up its image sensor expertise.

I regularly scan Apple's ( AAPL -1.17% ) job boards to try to get a sense of the technologies and products that the iDevice maker is working on. Apple, like most major companies, doesn't divulge too many specifics on the projects that it's developing in these listings. Nevertheless, it's not hard to get some sense of what broad themes and ideas the company is investing in by carefully observing these listings.

Image source: Apple. 

In this article, I'd like to go over two items that caught my eye during my most recent perusal of Apple's latest job listings.

Continued investment in liquid crystal display technology

Apple is widely expected to deploy displays based on organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDs, in at least one of its next generation iPhone models. Apple is still expected to utilize more traditional liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, in its mainstream iPhone models next year, though. 

Although it might have seemed as though Apple's plan is to move as quickly away from LCDs to OLEDs in future products, potentially ditching LCDs altogether fairly soon, a job listing for an Optical Display Engineer on Apple's site seems to suggest otherwise. 

Apple wants somebody who "will serve as a focal point in designing, developing, characterization and optimization of the LCD optical performances for the portable displays."

This individual will also "investigate up-to-date LCD technologies and generate new approaches to further enhance Apple portable display optical performances."

It's quite clear from this listing that Apple's product portfolio will continue to utilize LCDs in some fashion for a long time to come, even if the company utilizes OLEDs in some of its products.

This is sensible as LCDs can be much more cost effective than OLEDs. So, for lower-priced devices in Apple's product stack, sticking with LCDs (and, of course, continuing to improve them) may be the right business move for years to come.

Designing its own image sensors?

There is a lot of secrecy around Apple's camera technologies. A recent tear-down by Chipworks reveals that Sony ( SONY -0.12% ) builds the front-facing and rear-facing image sensors used in Apple's iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones.

It's not clear, though, whether these sensors are the product of a joint design effort between Sony and Apple (with Sony serving as the manufacturer), or if it's a custom design by Sony aimed at meeting Apple's specifications.

At any rate, Apple has a listing on its job board for an Image Sensor Analog Design Engineer. This individual, per the listing, will work as part of Apple's Camera Hardware Engineering group, which "is responsible for all research, design, development, test and qualification of camera hardware for Apple products."

Once hired, the engineer will "be at the center of [an] image sensor design effort" and the job entails "scoping and documenting sensor architectures, engaging in design execution and driving sensor validation."

If Apple hasn't already been designing its own image sensors, it certainly appears to be in the process of doing so now. Considering how important the quality of the camera experience is in today's smartphones, it's not a surprise that Apple wants to invest in building differentiated camera technologies for its devices. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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