Apple updates touch tech in upcoming iPads

NPD DisplaySearch (Touch Sensor Structures for Mobile Phones and Tablet PCs)

DigiTimes in January wrote Apple’s fifth-generation iPad could adopt the iPad mini’s thin-film touchscreen technology called GF Ditto, also better known as GF2. NPD DisplaySearch is well-versed in all things concerning mobile screens and yesterday they corroborated the rumor.

Specifically, DisplaySearch notes Apple’s shift toward in-cell display tech for the iPhone 5 and GF2 for the upcoming iPads has resulted in major shifts in the touch-panel industry supply chain. Basically a double-sided ITO film, GF2 has allowed Apple to make the iPad mini much thinner and significantly lighter compared to the bulkier G/G touchscreen tech driving the iPad 3.

As the iPad 5 is widely expected to adopt the iPad mini’s thin and light appearance, obviously a major part of that will be Apple’s adoption of the advanced GF2 technology…

NPD DisplaySearch research director Calvin Hsieh says mobile phone and tablet PC touch technologies and sensor structures are evolving quickly, “due in large part to Apple’s move away from GG structure to in-cell touch technology and GF2”.

And because Apple has a relatively high market share and sells premium products that incorporate premium technologies, any technological movement on the firm’s part is “felt throughout the component supply chain,” Calvin noted.

As for the iPad mini, DisplaySearch previously said Apple is still torn between oxide TFT or LTPS backplane technology. Sharp is notably the biggest Oxide TFT cheerleader, while LG Display and Samsung prefer LTPS.

iPad mini (three-up, front, back, profile, white)

DisplaySearch expects in-cell touch tech to nearly double from 7.3 percent of mobile phone shipments in 2012 to 13.7 percent in 2013. Shipments of GF2 sensor structure for tablets should rise from 4.7 percent in 2012 to as much as 28.4 percent in 2013.

Call it the Apple effect.

Asian media claims Foxconn will exclusively assemble the next iPad mini, though the device probably won’t launch before 2014 due to ongoing challenges dealing with mass-production of 7.9-inch Retina panels.

At any rate, Apple should show its cards in October and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is adamant that the iPad 5 will be the “highlight of iPad in 2013.″

Apple’s current full-size iPads use a GG touch screen structure, as do all 2007-2011 iPhones. For the iPhone 5, Apple engineers switched to in-cell technology which allows for a much thinner appearance by eliminating a layer by building the capacitors inside the LCD assembly itself.

The firm again switched to the more advanced GF2 for the iPad mini in 2012. Again, adopting GF2 tech in the upcoming iPad 5 is believed to have contributed in large part to its rumored iPad mini-like appearance, down to the skinnier bezels and chamfered edges.

As for the iPhone 5S, Apple is said to switch from the in-cell process to Touch-On-Display, a technology that should address the multitouch lag observed on the iPhone 5 when rapid-swiping.