According to a recent DisplaySearch report, the global touch panel market is on track to grow to $US3.3 billion and 660 million units by 2015, and its mainly thanks to the iPhone.
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The report notes that Apple’s iPhone uses a different technology called projected capacitance, which has enabled the multi-touch functionality that had been lacking in resistive-based touch panels.
A capacitive touch screen panel is coated with a material, typically indium tin oxide that conducts a continuous electrical current across the sensor. The sensor therefore exhibits a precisely controlled field of stored electrons in both the horizontal and vertical axes – it achieves capacitance.
However, projected capacitance is just one of about a dozen technologies vying for market dominance.
And each technology has advantages and drawbacks. Some, like resistive touch technology, have been available for many years while others, like digital waveguide, are relative newcomers improving on previous generations.
And interestingly, virtually all of the significant touchscreen technology patents were filed during the 1970s and 1980s and have expired.
Key display suppliers, like Sharp and TMDisplay, are scrambling to develop so-called in-cell optical touch technology that embeds photo sensors directly into LCDs.
By integrating the touch function directly into an LCD, display suppliers hope to capture a larger share of available revenue, the report notes.
Currently, touch panels feature separate panels or sensors placed on top of or around the actual display.
Other key findings from the report include
* Mobile phones will account for 34 per cent and 21 per cent of all touch panel shipments and revenues, respectively, during the forecast period. Shipments of touch-enabled mobile phones will reach 223 million global units by 2015.
* Despite the emergence of competing technologies, resistive touch solutions will retain 86 per cent share of shipments during the forecast period. However, resistive revenue share will drop from 78 per cent in 2007 to 64 per cent in 2015.
* The overall average selling price of touch panels will actually increase nearly 8 per cent between 2007 and 2015. In many applications, increases in panel sizes and functionality mix will offset price declines for older panels.