In-Cell Panel Technology Now Virtual Shoo-In For New iPhone, September Or October Release Most ProbablePosted by CharlesMoore on Wednesday May 30, 2012 Under iPhone 5 News, iPhone 5 Opinion, iPhone 5 Predictions, iPhone 5 Rumor
Evidence is mounting that whatever physical size the new iPhone’s display turns out to be, it’s going to feature in-cell touch technology, but the bad news is that panel supply issues may be contributing to its release delay.
Just to quickly recap for those who haven’t read our previous reports on the topic, in-cell technology engineers the screen’s touch sensitivity into the TFT (thin-film transistor) panel manufacturing process, thereby eliminating the need for an additional glass layer to add touch functionality. This yields two major advantages. The greater efficiency of integrating touch both reduces overall manufacturing costs and allows for a thinner and lighter panel.
According to AU Optronics Corp., in-cell multi-touch panel technology adds touch function features to TFT-LCD panels without adding an additional glass, making it possible to achieve glass thickness of as little as 2.2mm with a resolution of 480 x 272 – thinner than conventional touch panel applications. In-cell touch panels are also claimed to have superior anti-glare properties, which enhance image color saturation and readability even in bright sunlight, eliminate the inconvenience of frequently-required calibration of conventional touch panel applications, and feature real-time true multiple touch point detection which allows users to easily slide their fingers on the screen to better enjoy the touch panel experience.
Last week, Digitimes’ Siu Han and Steve Shen reported that according to the customary unnamed industry sources, Sony is likely to become one of Apple’s suppliers of in-cell touch panels for the next-generation iPhone, which Han and Shen expect to be launched in September or October, in addition to LG Display, Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) and Sharp, which have been previously contracted as in-cell touch panel suppliers for the new iPhone,
They report that LG Display has achieved a yield rate to 70-80%, and TMD is expected to enter mass production as scheduled, but Sharp has encountered problems or delays in bringing its yield rate up to an acceptable level, creating an opportunity for Sony to join enter the supply chain, and to begin volume production of in-cell touch panels for the new iPhone at the end of May.
In a new report yesterday, Digitimes’ Siu Han and Adam Hwang now say new iPhone production will kick off only at the end of the second quarter (ie: the end of June or even be delayed until into the third quarter, which will not help keep wind beneath the wings of WWDC iPad 5 announcement hopefuls. They also note that if yield rates for in-cell panel production by LG Display, Japan Display and Sharp don’t sho improvement, supply of LTPS (low-temperature poly-silicon) high-resolution touch panels for other smartphone vendors is likely to be tight, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers.
Han and Hwang note that LG Display, Japan Display and Sharp have a combined quarterly production capacity of 95 million LTPS panels, so if the yield rate can be sustained at 75%, they can supply 71-72 million panels, and the iPhone is projected to account for as much as 70% of actual output of LTPS panels in 2012-2013, which is discouraging news for other smartphone vendors, the sources indicated.
Han and Hwang also observe that with global shipments of existing iPhones expected to drop from 35 million units in the first quarter of 2012 to 25 million units in the second quarter, combined shipments of existing and the new iPhone could exceed 40 million units in the third quarter and 45 million units in the fourth quarter according to their sources’ estimates.
Meanwhile, however, Cult of Mac’s Killian Bell declares that LG’s New 5-Inch smartphone display makes The iPhone’s current 3.5-inch retina display look like “an old CRT,” noting that the LG panel features a 1920 x 1080 resolution with 440 pixels per inch to provide “incredibly crisp” images with full, high-definition video resolution. By comparison, the iPhone 4S’s 3.5-inch Retina display has just 326 pixels per inch at a 960 x 640 resolution.
Bell reports that the LG 5-inch 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio smartphone display incorporates Advanced High Performance In-Plane Switching (AH-IPS) technology, which, according to LG, means better color fidelity, wider viewing angles, stable images, and a rapid response speed when touched. Obviously smartphone panel competition is heating up as we await the new iPhone’s arrival with what is speculated to be also a 16:9 aspect ratio in addition to in-cell technology.
How much longer? The WWDC will be removed from the speculative equation one way or the other in 12 days now, with the conference keynote announced for June 11. I remain highly doubtful that a new iPhone announcement will be part of it, but we’ll see.
Yesterday in a staff report Appleinsider cited a new note to investors by RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani expressing belief that Apple will first release its redesigned MacBook laptops “later this quarter,” (I think the WWDC is a very strong, but not shoo-in possibility for that announcement) and release a new iPhone in the “late summer/early fall time frame,” ergo: September or October, which squares with my own deductions.
In his note, Appleinsider says Daryanani highlighted the iPhone as the company’s “flagship product,” noting that iPhone sales accounted for 43 percent of Apple’s revenue in fiscal 2011, but cautioned that Apple appears to have adopted a two-year design cycle for the iPhone that could cause “increased seasonality” of sales performance as savvy consumers clue in delay purchases as anticipated release dates for refreshments or redesigns draw closer. For instance, Daryanani points out that Apple logged just 21 percent growth in iPhone shipments year over year in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to 91 percent growth in Q4 2010, and is quoted by Appleinsider observing that “In our view, a redesigned version of the iPhone every two years will likely result in higher unit sales relative to the iPhone “S” versions, as carrier contracts last roughly 2 years and consumers have historically been attracted to the new design concepts created by Apple.”
Appleinsider recalls that last year, RBC analyst Mike Abramsky narrowly misjudged the iPhone 4S release, telling investors last August that Apple was likely to release its new iPhone in the September quarter, rather than in October as other reports had suggested.
I find Mr. Daryanani’s reference to a two-year iPhone redesign cycle is particularly interesting, since I think it would make logical good sense, and it’s demonstrably worked out extremely well for Apple with the iPhone 4/4S. If he’s right, then we can anticipate an “S” refresh of the new iPhone in the fall of 2013, and the next full redesign (iPhone 6) in mid-late 2014.
However, a two-year cycle means they really need to get it right out of the blocks.