Your iPhone’s touchscreen might look just like a single pane of living glass, but there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Every iPhone is comprised of multiple layers: an LCD that actually blasts the pixels out of the Retina Display, a glass substrate laye separating the LCD from the touch layer that translates your finger swipes and prods into input the system can read, and a layer of protective Gorilla Glass on top.
Obviously, Apple’s existing touchscreen tech works well, but having so many different layers has its drawbacks. A big one is that it adds to the iPhone’s thickness. But Apple may already be on the cusp of inking a deal with Sharp and Toshiba to adopt in-cell touch panel displays, which should lead to a slimmer, lighter iPhone 5.
An in-cell touch panel display differs from current solutions in that it merges the LCD layer and the touchscreen layer. That reduces thickness while also getting rid of the glass substrate layer required to separate and LCD from the touch layer.
The adoption of the in-cell touch panels, if realized, will also have a significant impact on the operations of Apple’s current touch panel suppliers TPK Holdings and Wintek, which are specialized in the production of glass on glass touch solutions currently, said the sources.
In response, TPK said that it is developing TOL (touch on lens) single-glass touch solutions, which will be more suitable for the production of high-end customized devices and that the market will accommodate more than one technology.
Not only will in-cell and TOL panels reduce iPhone thickness, but they will improve Apple’s margins too: less parts means less things which can go wrong in manufacturing, which translates to higher yields. It also means that there’s an extra layer of polishing of the glass substrate that doesn’t need to take place on every iPhone, shaving off a few pennies more.