updated 11:30 pm EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
iPhone 2012 may drop glass-on-glass touch
Apple's next iPhone might drop the traditional glass-on-glass approach to touchscreens if one rumor proves true. Part suppliers claimed to Digitimes that Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display were "likely" producing in-cell touch panels now that yield rates were good enough for the two to participate. The two would start production of in-cell panels sometime during the spring, although it wasn't clear if that schedule would include Apple.
The same tip was anticipating the actual phone launch in the summer, although it's not apparent whether this was knowledge or simply speculation. Most recent claims have put the launch in September or October.
In-cell touch had been hinted before, but if used could be a clue as to a significant redesign. The technology puts the touch sensors within the display's TFT layer instead of on a separate surface, slimming down the overall screen considerably. It has the additional upside of bringing the LCD, AMOLED, or similar display closer to the surface, leading to a more direct interaction with what's on screen and sometimes a brighter picture.
Switching could have a ripple effect on existing suppliers like TPK and Wintek that don't yet do in-cell touch. TPK is developing the technology, but it's not known if the contract part builder would be ready in time.
Digitimes has had a mixed track record and isn't necessarily accurate. However, it accurately leaked TSMC's 28-nanometer parts shortage and its effect on Qualcomm, giving some recent credibility.