New touchscreens complete high-end smartphone appeal

August 16, 2012 — Despite overall weaker shipments in 2012, new display and touch technology in small/medium devices continues to drive demand, especially in the smartphone sector. According to the NPD DisplaySearch Advanced Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report, an increased demand for higher-performing smartphones is driving production of combined flat-panel display (FPD) and touch panel technology. In addition to the trend of display makers bonding touch panels to their displays for shipment to their customers, there has been dramatic growth in integration of touch into the display itself.

Active matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays are using on-cell touch, while thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT LCD) makers are focusing on in-cell touch technology for high-resolution low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS). Currently, the top two global smart phone brands — Apple and Samsung — are leading adoption of these approaches. In the case of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3, AMOLED technology is being coupled with on-cell touch, and Apple is expected to incorporate in-cell touch in combination with LTPS TFT LCD on the iPhone5, which is expected in 2H’12.

As more smart phones are produced with some form of combined touch-panel FPD technology, NPD DisplaySearch anticipates that the cost, size, and brightness of these smart phones will change. NPD DisplaySearch forecasts a reduction in cost for the process of bonding touch panels with displays, eventually decreasing the cost of smart phones for consumers. NPD DisplaySearch also predicts smart phones developed with this combination technology will become thinner, as consumer demand for a more lightweight device continues to rise. In addition, NPD DisplaySearch predicts these smart phones will feature a higher brightness as the glass sheets used for the outer touch panel are removed.

Touch panel combination technology is expected to provide a major revenue stream for small/medium FPD applications. In fact, by next year, the majority of panel shipments are expected to use touch panels combined with FPD, incorporating both in-cell and on-cell touch. This segment is forecast to grow to 70% by 2015.

Figure. Touch Panel Combination Shares in High Value FPD (2011-2016). Source: NPD DisplaySearch Advanced Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report

“While this combined technology is expected to drive future demand, shipments are fairly stagnant because of a wait-and-see mentality that’s occurring in the marketplace at this time,” noted Hiroshi Hayase, NPD DisplaySearch Vice President of Small/Medium Display Research. “In Q2’12, NPD DisplaySearch found that shipments of small/medium displays have tapered off as both consumers and competitors wait for the release of the iPhone 5 in the second half of the year.”

In terms of expectations for the iPhone 5, LTPS TFT LCD production will increase with new fabs added in 2H’12. AMOLED production is increasing in expectation of expanding sales of the competing Galaxy S3. Furthermore, shipments of medium-sized LCDs in the 7“-class could increase due to new tablet PC models launched later this year.

The NPD DisplaySearch Advanced Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report covers the entire range of small/medium (=9.0") displays shipped worldwide and regionally. Backed by more than 40 suppliers of data and our own team of industry analysts, this report analyzes historical shipments and projects forecasts that provide decision makers with the insights they need to support procurement and product plans.

New Advanced Features: The Advanced Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report now allow users to track data by viewing-angle and 3D capabilities.

NPD DisplaySearch is a global market research and consulting firm specializing in the display supply chain, as well as the emerging photovoltaic/solar cell industries. For more information on DisplaySearch analysts, reports and industry events, visit us at http://www.displaysearch.com/.

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