Apple is rumored to be considering a switch to the Apple Watch’s touchscreen technology for future iPhones as the firm is reportedly unhappy that in-cell panels that current iPhones use are struggling with touch sensitivity on screen edges.
While all iPhone models ranging from the original iPhone to the iPhone 4s were outfitted with the traditional glass (G/G) panels, Apple’s engineers in 2012 switched to in-cell technology for the iPhone 5. Since the iPhone 5, all iPhone models have used in-cell tech.
In-cell technology eliminates a layer by building the capacitors inside the LCD assembly itself, which allows for a notably thinner appearance of the screen.
According to an analysis by DigiTimes Research based on supply chain data and market observers, a 2017 iPhone model (presumably to be called ‘iPhone 7’) is expected to make a switch to G/G, but the upcoming ‘iPhone 6s’ and ‘iPhone 6s Plus’ models are expected to still use the in-cell screen assembly process.
Reverting back to using G/G panels would let Apple add more features to iPhones, including ultra-sharp screens and nearly bezel-less appearance.
While in-cell panels are thinner and lighter compared to their glass counterparts, “ongoing production issues” with the technology has prompted the Cupertino firm to push forward with G/G panels for 2016 iPhones.
“While it is still not 100 percent clear what Apple will decide, the company has been impressed with the AMOLED display and G/G touch panel sensitivity and features found in the Apple Watch,” reads the analysis.
More importantly, production bottlenecks with in-cell panels are preventing Apple from adding new features like increasing display resolution and adopting 4K screens on iPhones.
In-cell production issues have largely contributed to constrained launch supply of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as Apple’s suppliers suffered a setback after the backlight that helps illuminate the screen had to be revised.
This has created a production bottleneck as the screen assembly process had to be put on hold for part of June and July of last year.
Some of the notable benefits of using G/G tech include the following perks:
- G/G touch panels may help Apple develop bezel-free iPhones
- Apple may be able to outfit future iPhones with Ultra HD (4K) screens
- G/G has better touch sensitivity than in-cell tech, especially on the edges
- G/G doesn’t exhibit a multitouch lag when swiping rapidly
- Apple’s supply chain could be more simplified
- Overall production time would be cut down
- Glass-type touch panel is optically better than film-type one
Apple’s current in-cell provider, Japan Display, stands to lose the most should the company revert to the G/G screens assembly process.
In fact, DigiTimes Research has learned that TPK, one of Apple’s panel suppliers, is currently developing solutions involving using a G/G substrate and ITO thin film to decrease a thickness from 8.5mm to 7.1mm.
Source: DigiTimes Research