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Digitimes Research: On-cell touch panels unlikely to win favor in high-end smartphones in 2014
Jason Yang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Monday 14 July 2014]

The on-cell touchscreen technology led by US-based touch control IC maker Synaptics and China-based Focaltech have accumulated total unit shipments of one million since the beginning of the technology's mass production in October 2013.

Panel makers have gradually conquered low yield problems, but Digitimes Research believes that most vendors' unwillingness to try out new technology plus difficulties to significantly reduce thickness prior to the end of 2014, will limit the technology from becoming suitable for high-end smartphones.

Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) was the earliest maker to start mass producing on-cell touch panels. Its first client was China-based CoolPad with touch control ICs supplied by Focaltech. Meanwhile, Synaptics is cooperating with Innolux to supply panels to Nokia.

Prior to the end of the first quarter 2014, only CPT had achieved shipments of one million on-cell touch panels and the volume was considered quite good an emerging technology.

HannStar started mass production of on-cell touch panels in May 2014, using color filter production lines from its subsidiary HannsTouch Solution. HannStar supplies panels to ZTE with estimated shipments of 700,000 units per month.

Although shipments are considered quite good for an emerging technology, compared to original expectations of on-cell touch panels seriously threatening traditional touch panel makers, in the second half of 2013, performance is still far from satisfactory.

Despite panel makers' improvements in management of the on-cell technology's manufacturing process, most handset vendors still have barriers towards adopting emerging technology.

More importantly, if an on-cell touch panel adopts single-layer multi-touch technology, the panel's size and resolution are both small, limiting its applications at sub-5-inch and WVGA-level products.

At the same time, pinholes on the surface of the glass can easily expand during the glass thinning process and reduce yield rates; therefore most on-cell touch panels are not being thinned.

As a result, lacking sufficient resolution and thinness, Digitimes Research estimates that on-cell touch panels are unlikely to be a match for traditional touchscreen technologies such as GFF prior to the end of 2014.

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