Although smartphone display technology is transitioning to active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED), which prefers on-cell touch solution, thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT LCD) still accounts for more than 70 percent of total mobile phone panel shipments. While on-cell touch solution is used in both AMOLED and TFT LCD, albeit mostly in AMOLED, it has been losing its share in the TFT LCD, making in-cell touch solution topping on-cell in shipments of total mobile phone touch panels in 2017. Embedded touch solutions, including both in-cell and on-cell, grabbed more than 60 percent shipment share in 2017 and keep expanding in the mobile phone panel market.
Shipments of in-cell touch-based mobile phone panels reached 486 million units in 2017, up 30 percent from the previous year, accounting for 31.1 percent of total mobile phone touch panel shipments, according to the latest Touch Panel Market Tracker Report by IHS Markit. The growth has been mostly driven by self-sensing in-cell touch by common electrode (Vcom) blocks, which replaced on-cell touch solutions. Its shipments reached 212 million units in 2017, jumping 153 percent over year.
Panel makers that have manufactured in-cell touch TFT LCD panels for smartphones have accumulated know-hows in cost reduction and process saving. They have already come up with mask-saving solutions for the in-cell touch by Vcom blocks, which allow more affordable production cost than the conventional add-on types.
The success has convinced panel makers and brands to adopt in-cell touch by Vcom blocks to larger applications, such as tablet and notebook PC for the past two years. Although the solution’s presence in the tablet PC panel market was still minor in 2017, it accounted for 7 percent in the notebook PC panel shipments. The solution is expected to expand the shipment share for both applications in 2018.
However, in-cell solutions are facing challenges as well. As Apple has adopted AMOLED for its new iPhone X released in the fourth quarter of 2017, shipments of its proprietary in-cell touch patterning touch electrodes for the TFT backplane started declining. Apple’s in-cell touch shipments reached almost 200 million units in 2017, down 8 percent from 2016. Hybrid in-cell touch, especially Japan Display’s Pixel Eyes, is also facing a challenge as AMOLED is preferred in the high-end segment, losing its momentum. Shipments of hybrid in-cell touch panels are expected to decline almost 10 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.
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