Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New touchscreen tech could mean higher-quality yet thinner iPhone 5 display

Apple's iPhone 5 will feature a new technology that will enable the electronics giant to make the smartphone's screen thinner, according from the Wall Street Journal. The report seems to confirm the use of in-cell touch panels in the iPhone 5, something that was rumored back in April.

In-cell touch panels reduce the thickness of the screen by placing the touch sensors inside the color filters rather than atop them. Reportedly, this would reduce the thickness of the screen by about half a millimeter, while at the same time improving the quality of displayed images.

It's the sort of move Apple is not afraid to make, although if a hardware change could possibly negatively affect battery life, the company has a tendency to eschew the feature. An example would be LTE, which is known to sap battery life, and which Apple omitted from its iPhone 4S, despite the feature's appearance in the mobile devices of many other manufacturers.

The new technology would also simplify Apple's supply chain and simplify assembly, as the company would no longer have to buy touch panels and LCD panels from separate suppliers. The report said that Sharp, LG, and Japan Display (which is comprised of Toshiba, Hitachi, and Sony) are mass producing panels including in-cell technology for the Cupertino, Calif. company.

It's an apparent counter-move to Samsung's Galaxy S III and is thinner than the iPhone 4S. The GS3 comes with a Samsung organic light-emitting display (OLED), which doesn't require backlighting. Today's OLED displays are primarily supplied by Samsung; OLEDs tend to be thinner than conventional LCD panels.

Notably, given its legal battles against Samsung, Apple has been attempting to reduce its dependence on parts from the Korean giant, but hasn't been too successful, to date. The "new iPad" (or iPad 3), for example, still uses a Samsung-built A5X processor. The iPhone 5 will, it is believed, ship with a Samsung quad-core Exynos-based A6 processor.

The iPhone 5 is expected to launch later this year, alongside the rumored iPad mini. It will sport a larger screen, with a different aspect ratio, with the screen size somewhere around 4-inches diagonally. We're expecting the devices to ship in September or October, with iOS 6 "beating" them to the market by a week or so.

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