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Digitimes Research: GG touch panels yet to be eliminated from market thanks to iPhone 4/4s and iPad 4
Jason Yang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Tuesday 10 June 2014]

The traditional glass-glass (GG) touchscreen technology was once thought to be heading towards elimination from the IT industry as Apple, a major supporter of the technology, turned to other touchscreen technology for its new mobile devices. Compared to film-type touch panels, GG-based touch panels are heavier, thicker and have lower production yield rates.

But Apple continues to sell the iPhone 4/4s equipped with GG-based touch panels in emerging markets and its GG touch panel-based iPad 4 is to replace the iPad 2 as its main device for the entry-level 9.7-inch tablet segment. Players such as Amazon and China-based smartphone and tablet vendors are also using GG-based touch panels for their entry-level products. With these products still around, Digitimes Research expects the GG touch technology to stay in the market for at least another year, until the OGS technology is able to improve the panel's ruggedness and production yield rates.

The comparison between the ITO film-type and glass-type touchscreen technologies has always been a hot topic within the touchscreen industry. The glass-type touch panel is optically better, while the ITO film-type sees lower production costs, making it suitable for mass production and easier to expand production capacity. With the smartphone and tablet industries gradually expanding, the ITO firm-type touch panel has gradually become the mainstream of the entry-level/mid-range smartphone and mid-range tablet markets.

As for high-end products, most vendors have turned to adopt OGS or embedded (in-cell or on-cell) touch panels, which are able to avoid the weight and thickness issues facing GG-based touch panels. Such a trend is threatening to eliminate the GG touchscreen technology from the IT industry.

However, the glass-type touch panelcamp still has its supporters in brand name vendors. Amazon has adopted the GG touchscreen technology for its entry-level products. China-based smartphone vendors Lenovo and Huawei have also adopted glass-type single-layer multi-point sensors to pair with the GG and GFF technologies for their entry-level/mid-range smartphones.

In March 2014, Apple announced it will stop producing the iPad 2, to be replaced by its 9.7-inch 2048-by-1536 GG-touch-panel-based iPad 4 for the 9.7-inch entry-level tablet segment. The company also continues to supply the iPhone 4/4s to fulfill emerging market demand. The production volume of the iPhone 4s is expected to reach 4-6 million units each quarter in the second half of 2014, helping the GG touchscreen technology to stay in the market.

Digitimes Research estimates that Taiwan-based TPK and General Interface Solution (GIS) shipped over seven million touch panels for iPhone 4/4s in the first quarter of 2014, far higher than the original expectation.

But it can still be foreseen that except for lowest-end white-box tablets, which will continue to adopt the GG touchscreen technology, other entry-level/mid-range smartphones' adoption rate of GG technology will gradually drop and be replaced by the OGS, which is expected to see increasing yield rates and decreasing production costs. Currently, two third of China's entry-level/mid-range smartphones have adopted GG solutions from China-based glass-type touch panel makers and the rate may drop to only one third by 2015.

Content from this blog post was provided by the Digitimes Research Tracking team, which focuses on shipment data and market trends in the global mobile device supply chain. Digitimes Research provides quarterly tracking services for market sectors such as Global Tablet, China Smartphone, China Smartphone AP, China Touch Panel, Taiwan ICT and Taiwan FPD. Click here for more information about Digitimes Research Tracking services.

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Greater China touch panel shipment forecast through 2015