In-cell touch, DITO tech gaining ground for mobile device displays

November 30, 2012 - With the advent of two new touch sensor technologies, more than 7.5% of the mobile phone market will use "in-cell touch" in 2012 and tablet PCs will see a 5% shipment share of "DITO film structure" technology, reports NPD DisplaySearch. In-cell touch’s market share is estimated to grow to 16.7% by 2018.

Apple’s iPhone 5 uses in-cell touch technology, while the iPad mini features a DITO film structure.

"These two new projected capacitive touch sensor structures enabled Apple to reduce the thickness and weight of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini," said Calvin Hsieh, research director, NPD DisplaySearch. "These factors contribute to the consumer demand for these products, but manufacturing the new sensors has proven problematic."

Apple sources the 4-in. 1136 × 640 (326 ppi) in-cell touch LCD from LG Display, Japan Display Inc., and Sharp under a license to use Apple’s in-cell touch patents, and these panel makers are forbidden to sell LCD panels of any size using Apple’s in-cell touch patents to other companies. Limited production, along with the challenges in producing the new sensors with strict performance requirements, have resulted in poor yield rates (70%-80% or less) in LCD panel manufacturing and a higher price for in-cell touch.

The iPad mini represents the first tablet PC display to incorporate a DITO film touch sensor, which is lighter and thinner than DITO glass (0.125 mm vs. 0.4 mm). However, there are challenges with production of the sensor on film and lamination since it is easily broken when stretched. Also, alignment of film sensors is more difficult than with rigid glass, especially for larger sizes. These challenges have resulted in low production yield rates, which have been a contributor to the higher entry price of $329 for the iPad mini. Other less-expensive tablet PCs use glass sensors or a one-glass solution with optical bonding.

"In-cell touch and DITO film offer some clear advantages, but at the expense of lower yield rates and higher costs — at least in the early stages of production," added Hsieh. "Apple has concluded that the benefits of thinner, lighter devices will be highly valued by consumers."

NPD DisplaySearch’s 2012 Touch Panel Market Analysis offers a comprehensive breakdown of touch panel technologies and their market forecasts through 2018.

Touch technology shipments by category in mobile phones. (Source: NPD DisplaySearch)

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