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.
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