In-Cell Touch Technology Could Help Apple Reduce Next iPhone's Thickness by 15%

Following last week's rumor that Apple is looking to adopt thinner in-cell touch technology for the display of the next-generation iPhone, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently took on a new position with KGI Securities, has issued a report looking at how that change could help Apple reduce the thickness of the iPhone from the current 9.3 mm of the iPhone 4S to under 8 mm. The move would help Apple to compete against its Android-based challengers, which have continued to see reductions in their thickness over time.

Since Apple’s smartphone competitors have generally slimmed down their high-end offerings to 7-8mm, Apple needs to make a leap forward from 4S’ 9.3mm thickness. We believe Apple will aim at 8mm or below (at least 1.4mm slimmer) for iPhone 5, in a bid to ensure brisk sales through 2014, while peers will also continue to introduce increasingly slim models next year.

As such, all iPhone 4S components that account for thickness must be slimmer, specifically, touch panel, battery and casing. Moreover, a marginal amount of space is required between the three parts for the sakes of assembly tolerance and thermal expansion of components.

Kuo calculates that shifting to in-cell touch technology in the next iPhone will yield Apple just shy of 0.5 mm in terms of a reduction in thickness. Kuo envisions a similar reduction coming from the battery, which he predicts Apple will be able to broaden somewhat inside the casing, allowing for a roughly 10% reduction in battery thickness.

A final 0.5 mm reduction in thickness could come from the use of a metal back case, which could come in at half the thickness of the glass back used in the current iPhone. Altogether, Apple could shave 1.4 mm from the iPhone's thickness to bring the next-generation model in at just 7.9 mm thick.


In yet another argument for the adoption of in-cell touch technology for the display in the next-generation iPhone, Kuo notes that display production would be greatly simplified, with fewer steps in the manufacturing process and fewer vendors being involved resulting in an estimated reduction in production time from 12-16 days to just 3-5 days.

While the initial yield on in-cell touch displays is currently lower than for glass-on-glass manufacturing techniques such as those used for the iPhone 4S, that deficiency can be compensated for by re-bonding in-cell panels and cover glass units with the optically clear resin (OCR) used in the bonding process. The optically clear adhesive (OCA) used in the current manufacturing process can not be re-bonded if the initial bonding fails.

Top Rated Comments

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108 months ago
keep the thickness and use this tech to give me much better battery life.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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108 months ago
I'm surprised this makes absolutely no mention of the camera sensor. At 7.2mm, the iPod touch is too thin to incorporate the iPhone's camera. This report cites rival phones at 7mm but many of those handsets feature hideous raised bumps on the back where the camera sensor sits. Apple would never make this design tradeoff.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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108 months ago
I hope they don't make the phone thinner. What they should do is make the battery bigger with that extra space. Especially since LTE kills battery life.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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108 months ago
The race for phone thinness is misguided in my opinion and similar to the megapixel race. Advances in thinner components should be used for fitting a bigger battery as long as battery technology is not advancing. The biggest problem with phones is battery life and not thinness.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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108 months ago
If you'll forgive me the fanboy moment here, I don't really like the implication that Apple is somehow behind in the engineering-for-smallness game. Their competitors make phones a little thinner by ballooning the height and width by inches (volume goes way up) and adding weird protrubances or non-uniform depths. And yet somehow those competitors still get half the battery life.

The things Apple manages to do in the smallest footprints is impressive, and I look forward to them pushing the envelope again.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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108 months ago
Does the phone need to be any thinner? The Android phones are also getting much larger, which is not something I am a fan of at all. The extra 10/15% could be used for battery and could really help the phones battery life.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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