Inside Apple's new iPad display technology


The new Apple iPad, generation 3, uses a 2048 ?? 1536, 264 ppi retina display, quadrupling the pixels of the previous generation. However, Apple may be losing its cutting-edge status when it comes to gesture recognition beyond touchscreens.

Apple's higher-resolution iPad display relies on super high aperture (SHA) pixel designs ??? a method of increasing aperture ratio by applying approximately a 3??m thick photo-definable acrylic resin layer to planarize the device and increase the vertical gap between the indium tin oxide (ITO) pixel electrodes and signal lines. This reduces unwanted capacitive coupling and enables the electrode to be extended over the gate and data lines without causing cross talk or affecting image quality, explains NPD DisplaySearch. More than 25% of LCDs adopt SHA technology and that is likely to continue to grow in the future.

Conventional to SHA Pixel Design Comparison. Source: DisplaySearch TFT LCD Process Roadmap Report. Note: Image refers to VA type SHA pixel.

The iSuppli Displays Materials & Systems Service believes Apple likely has qualified three sources for the display in the new iPad: Samsung, LG Display (LGD), and Sharp, with volume shipments likely only from Samsung in the near term. Although they are currently shipping displays in small quantities, LGD and Sharp are expected to ramp up volume production of new iPad displays in April. SHA technology was pioneered by Sharp and JSR many years ago, NPD DisplaySearch notes. IHS predicts that Apple is likely to begin shipping new iPads with displays from these suppliers in Q2 2012.

Sharp is working with a new indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology that enables higher resolutions. The company now is working to ramp up the production of IGZO thin-film transistor (TFT) panels at its Gen 8 fab in Kameyama, Japan, but manufacturing problems could affect both the availability of displays for a full rollout of the new iPad, as well as the cost of the iPad displays. LGD has been pioneering the use of advanced in-plane switching (IPS) display technology, particularly in media tablet displays.

IMS Research believes Apple will need to embrace embedded vision-based technologies in its next product releases, not incremental technology upgrades as seen in the gen-3 iPad.

Apple is largely credited with bringing touchscreen interaction to the masses thanks to the iPhone. Now, other user interface technologies ??? particularly gesture recognition, voice commands ??? are complementing touch interfaces. Competitors such as Samsung and Microsoft have steadily begun integrating these technologies. Yearly worldwide shipments of devices with next-generation user interface technologies will grow to nearly 3.8 billion units in 2015, says IMS Research.

Apple's competitors are more aggressively deploying camera-based gesture recognition applications, as well as voice control (Apple's Siri did not get a spot on the new iPad). Microsoft uses gesture control with the Xbox 360 and upcoming Windows 8 laptops and tablets, along with gesture-friendly common interfaces across devices. Microsoft deploys standard or enhanced front-facing cameras for the new gesture-control applications. Android-based smartphones and tablets incorporating gesture control will debut in volume in late 2012. ???M.C.

Solid State Technology, Volume 55, Issue 3, April 2012

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