updated 10:00 pm EDT, Tue October 18, 2011
Could prove further hindrance to rivals
Apple has finally been awarded a patent for a system of integrating a touch-screen panel directly into an IPS (in-plane switching) display, as found on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S -- which it first applied for in 2007, shortly after the announcement of the first iPhone. The method is considered to be both superior and more cost-effective in comparison to the usual method of overlaying a touch-screen layer or panel on top of a display panel.
The patent names Apple engineers Steve Hotelling and John Zhong as the co-inventors, and notes that because the display and multi-touch functionality can be implemented on the same circuit, they could be synchronized to avoid noise or interference from each other. By sharing the circuitry, the touch-integrated display could be cheaper to make than the two-part solution used by most other mobile-device makers.
Apple's competitors tend to use alternatives, including the separate multi-touch layer on LCDs or an alternative technology altogether (such as Samsung's use of Super AMOLED). The granting of the patent could stop competitors from using a similarly-integrated technology and force them to either continue with the dual-layer approach or develop their own methodology for combining displays and touch panels.