New wave of touch sensors driven by consumer demand, says NPD DisplaySearch

November 27, 2012 // By Julien Happich
With the advent of new touch sensor structures driven by consumer demand for lighter and thinner devices, NPD DisplaySearch finds that in-cell touch technology and DITO (dual ITO) film are the wave of the future.

The market analysis firm reports that more than 7.5% of the mobile phone marketplace will be using in-cell touch in 2012, a number that is estimated to grow to 16.7% by 2018. In addition, tablet PCs, which primarily use projected capacitive touch technology, will see a 5% shipment share of DITO film structure technology in 2012.

Apple's, newest iPad and iPhone models incorporate these new touch sensor structures. The iPhone 5 uses in-cell touch technology, which is a major change to the touch structure since the first iPhone model in 2007. Meanwhile, the iPad mini features a DITOfilm structure.

“These two new projected capacitive touch sensor structures enabled Apple to reduce the thickness and weight of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini,” said Calvin Hsieh, Research Director, NPD DisplaySearch. “These factors contribute to the consumer demand for these products, but manufacturing the new sensors has proven problematic.”

Apple sources the 4” 1136 × 640 (326 ppi) in-cell touch LCD from LG Display, Japan Display Inc., and Sharp under a license to use Apple’s in-cell touch patents. Under the terms of the agreement, these panel makers are not allowed to sell LCD panels of any size using Apple’s in-cell touch patents to other companies. Limited production along with the challenges in producing the new sensors with strict performance requirements have resulted in poor yield rates (70-80% or less) in the LCD panel manufacturing. These challenges have also led to a higher price for in-cell touch.


Figure 1: Touch Technology Shipments by Category in Mobile Phones

Source: NPD DisplaySearch Touch Panel Market Analysis

The iPad mini represents the first tablet PC display to incorporate a DITO film touch sensor, which is lighter and thinner than DITO glass (0.125 compared to 0.4 mm). However, there are challenges with production of the sensor on film and lamination since it is easily broken when stretched. Also, alignment of film sensors is more difficult than