Apple's newly-patented in-cell touchscreen tech could be bound for next-gen iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple on Tuesday received a patent for touch screen LCD technology which integrates touch-sensing elements with display circuitry to create a thinner, lighter panel that will possibly make its way to the company's popular smartphone.

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,243,027 for a "Touch screen liquid crystal display" describes a variety of methods in which a touchscreen's touch-sensing elements are integrated within the LCD, unlike current technology which places the touch layer over a device's screen. The patent filing cross-references a number of properties regarding multi-touch and LCD technologies.

LCD touchscreen technology used in the current iPhone 4S, for example, is "glass-on-glass" or "on cell," meaning the touch sensitive capacitive element is sandwiched between a display unit's top glass and a protective Gorilla Glass layer. Below the LCD's top glass is the liquid crystal array, a bottom glass and backlight assembly.

In a traditional configuration, colors and brightness are achieved through use of thin film transistors (TFT) overlaid on the top or bottom mother-glasses. The transistors apply a charge to the liquid crystals, which are held in cells, changing their orientation and allowing backlight transmission for the desired pixel color or brightness.

LCD Stackup
Basic LCD stackup. | Source: USPTO


In-cell technology removes the top substrate, or glass layer, by combining the liquid crystal and touch sensing elements into a single structure. As seen in the patent filing, there are multiple ways of integrating the elements.

From the patent filing:
By integrating the layered structure of an LCD and a touch sensor, a variety of benefits can be achieved. This integration can include combining or interleaving the layered structures described above. Integration can further include eliminating redundant structures and/or finding dual purposes (e.g., one purpose for the touch function and another for the display function) for particular layers or structures. This can permit some layers to be eliminated, which can reduce cost and thickness of the touch screen LCD, as well as simplify manufacturing.
One of the methods described is of particular interest to Apple as it can be implemented in both conventional and in-plane-switching (IPS) panels, the latter being used in the current iPhone 4S' Retina display and a number of other products from the Cupertino company.

In-cell Concept
In-cell display concept. | Source: USPTO


In one of Apple's patent concepts regarding an in-cell IPS panel, the technology can "provide touch-sensing capabilities by allowing the same electrodes used for display updating to also be used for touch sensing." This sharing of electrodes is necessary as IPS displays lack the requisite layer to apply a touch drive or touch sensing elements. The patent goes on to say the additional circuitry can help augment the shared electrodes and in some cases "touch pixels can overlap a large number of display pixels."

From the patent filing:
In contrast, because the IPS embodiments discussed below can use the same electrodes used for display control and touch sensing, higher touch resolution can be obtained with little to no additional cost. Alternatively, a number of touch pixels can be grouped to produce a combined touch signal with a lower resolution.
Manufacture Flow
Sample in-cell LCD manufacture flow. | Source: USPTO


Rumors swirled in April that Apple was looking to employ so-called "in-cell" touchscreen technology into a next-generation iPhone, allowing the company to keep weight and size down as the handset moves from a 3.5-inch screen to a larger 4-inch version. The Wall Street Journal in July corroborated the early reports. Display manufacturers like Sharp and LG are at the cutting edge of in-cell technology are have purportedly been tapped to supply the new iPhone's screens.

Tuesday's patent filing describes a display similar to the rumored in-cell units, but includes a variety of ways to integrate a touch sensitive element into an LCD array, not just one. Also outlined are processes related to manufacturing the new screens, whether it be by modifying existing methods or creating entirely new steps in the manufacturing process flow.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    Looks like innovation to me.
  • Reply 2 of 47
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post



    Looks like innovation to me.


     


    If it differs enough from the in-cell touchscreen which Samsung en AU Optronics have developed for the AMOLED displays which came to market 2~3 years ago. This is for IPS screens so it will probably differ enough.

  • Reply 3 of 47


    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.

  • Reply 4 of 47
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,098member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post



    Looks like innovation to me.


     


    But how long till Samsung copies it?

  • Reply 5 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,260member
    custardcar wrote: »
    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.

    I don't know but it is hard to believe Apple are not researching or at least assisting in researching new forms of battery technology. Anyone here know anything along those lines?
  • Reply 6 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,260member
    lkrupp wrote: »
    But how long till Samsung copies it?

    I confess, I always think when I see these patent applications posted like this ... way to show Sammy how eh? I realize it's a silly thought as this is how the process works but it is always my initial reaction.
  • Reply 7 of 47
    hittrj01hittrj01 Posts: 753member


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.



     


    Where are you that you aren't around a charger for a couple of days? I've had my iPhone last me through 2 and a half days at times. I'd find that remarkably better than anything else out on the market right now. The only thing that rivals it is the Droid Razr Maxx, and which phone would you rather have? Also, of course your old Nokia ran for 2 weeks. So does a Kindle. It doesn't mean that it does anything special, just that it has one task and one task only. It doesn't take too much battery power to sit in standby all day until a call comes in.

  • Reply 8 of 47
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


     


    But how long till Samsung copies it?



     


    See post #2, samsung have had this technology in AMOLED displays for some years now (if I recall correctly it was introduced with the first Galaxy S)

  • Reply 9 of 47
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


     


    But how long till Samsung copies it?



    How do you know they haven't already filed something similar? You really don't. Appleinsider (justifiably) reports on Apple patent filings. There is little reason to report on others, regardless of their existence if they don't relate to the primary focus of the site in some way.

  • Reply 10 of 47


    I go camping at least twice a year where i'm away from plug sockets for a good 5 days where it'd be very useful. In addition, I go on cycle tours for weekends, and fear my battery running out.


     


    Also, I rather like the idea of being able to use my phone all day and not have to worry about plugging it in every night otherwise I'll be without my phone the next day.


     


    And finally, in my iPhone (less than 12 months old) the battery has deteriorated such that I have to charge it daily (with normal use - i.e. just text messages, bit of music and web surfing). I'd call that fairly unacceptable when all the other elements of the phone have come on in leaps and bounds. 


     


    What harm is there in insisting battery technology is developed, I don't see it being a waste of time/money?

  • Reply 11 of 47
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    I go camping at least twice a year where i'm away from plug sockets for a good 5 days where it'd be very useful. In addition, I go on cycle tours for weekends, and fear my battery running out.


     


    Also, I rather like the idea of being able to use my phone all day and not have to worry about plugging it in every night otherwise I'll be without my phone the next day.


     


    And finally, in my iPhone (less than 12 months old) the battery has deteriorated such that I have to charge it daily (with normal use - i.e. just text messages, bit of music and web surfing). I'd call that fairly unacceptable when all the other elements of the phone have come on in leaps and bounds. 


     


    What harm is there in insisting battery technology is developed, I don't see it being a waste of time/money?



     


    Just read this today : http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/techscience/2012/08/13/8/0601000000AEN20120813001600320F.HTML


     


    I think there is a lot of development going on in the field of batteries (not only for devices but also for electric cars) but it just hasn't paid off yet, or is still not practical.


     


    b.t.w. my link about fast charging comes from south-korea, ironic ? ;)

  • Reply 12 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,260member
    mausz wrote: »
    Just read this today : http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/techscience/2012/08/13/8/0601000000AEN20120813001600320F.HTML

    I think there is a lot of development going on in the field of batteries (not only for devices but also for electric cars) but it just hasn't paid off yet, or is still not practical.

    b.t.w. my link about fast charging comes from south-korea, ironic ? ;)

    If this proves to be a success I hope those S. Korean scientists can benefit from their hard work and some evil company doesn't simply rip off their IP. /ironic smile
  • Reply 13 of 47
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    If this proves to be a success I hope those S. Korean scientists can benefit from their hard work and some evil company doesn't simply rip off their IP. /ironic smile


     


    As the research was (partially) funded by the ministry and therefor with public money, I would not like to see them benefit by going commercial. Something which happens quite a lot, scientist at universities get funding to develop without financial risk, and when one of them gets success, they leave and develop it commercially.

  • Reply 14 of 47

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    I go camping at least twice a year where i'm away from plug sockets for a good 5 days where it'd be very useful. In addition, I go on cycle tours for weekends, and fear my battery running out.


     


    Also, I rather like the idea of being able to use my phone all day and not have to worry about plugging it in every night otherwise I'll be without my phone the next day.


     


    And finally, in my iPhone (less than 12 months old) the battery has deteriorated such that I have to charge it daily (with normal use - i.e. just text messages, bit of music and web surfing). I'd call that fairly unacceptable when all the other elements of the phone have come on in leaps and bounds. 


     


    What harm is there in insisting battery technology is developed, I don't see it being a waste of time/money?



    If the thickness and weight won't bother you -- apparently, it won't, given your post -- get an external battery pack. There are many excellent ones available in the market. Apple is not in the business of doing everything.

  • Reply 15 of 47

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.



     


     


    To be fair, if you want an iPhone with great battery life, you can have it if you're willing to make some sacrifices.


     


    1. Turn off all battery-sucking functionality that you don't absolutely need (or, turn it on only when needed), such as Bluetooth, location services, iCloud services, etc.


     


    2. Buy an iPhone case with a battery, such as this one: http://www.amazon.com/Mophie-Rechargeable-Battery-iPhone-Packaging/dp/B004GGU8SS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344953890&sr=8-1&keywords=mophie


     


    Now, you're still not getting a battery that will last a fortnight, but you'd get several days worth with moderate use.

  • Reply 16 of 47
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.



     


     


    Yes, but did that Nokia phone have blue tooth, wi-fi, and the same type of display? Bluetooth and Wi-Fi drain the juice.

  • Reply 17 of 47
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TBell View Post


     


     


    Yes, but did that Nokia phone have blue tooth, wi-fi, and the same type of display? Bluetooth and Wi-Fi drain the juice.



     


    I used a work Nokia C5-00 last year and it went for 2 weeks without problems. Bluetooth was enabled, it did not have WiFi to be fair.

  • Reply 18 of 47

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


     


    But how long till Samsung copies it?



     


    They will just have their Fandriods post "prior art".

  • Reply 19 of 47
    sleepy3sleepy3 Posts: 244member


    Uhhh, Didn't Samsung start doing this with their AMOLED screens FOR YEARS NOW


     


    Then again, since this is an LCD patent, it is diff, since LCD needs backlight and AMOLED does not. Seeing LCD inherently needs more layers than AMOLED, I'm not sure why Apple is still betting on LCD tech. 


     


    Also, this was done in 2007. I don't even think OLED screens were possible in 2007. 


     


    Not sure why Apple is sticking with LCD though. 


     


    OLED has better contrast ratios (no backlight so black is BLACK), can show brighter colors (although manufacturers like this feature a bit TOO much and over calibrate), uses less power, and since it requires no backlight they are thinner AND can be made flexible. 


     


    LCD has about 10 years left in it. OLED prices will come down and drive it out of the market. Sure, an OLED TV may be a bazillion dollars now, but i remember wback when an LCD monitor was a bazillion dollars compared to a CRT, and look how that turned out. 

  • Reply 20 of 47

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustardCar View Post


    If I'm honest I'd trade new touchscreen tech, a bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, better graphics, lighter form factor and other functions for Apple to just make a phone with battery that lasts a reasonable amount of time (5 days perhaps between charges). I recall most of my old Nokia mobile phones only needing to be charged once a fortnight. I know screens suck battery life, as do 3G/Wi-fi/music/videos etc. but why shouldn't we expect a little more battery life for when we're not near a plug socket. Why don't Apple spend some of their billions of cash sloshing about in their accounts on developing battery tech. It's urgently needed, and could be incredibly lucrative to Apple.



    If your honest you would admit your Nokia wasn't a personal computer in your pocket. If your honest you would admit Apples iPhone has battery life comparable if not better than most smart phones on Market. If your honest, you would admit that this is the state of battery technology and that 5 days between charging  you want is the trade off for phones that do all the things your Nokia couldn't. 


     


     


    You can still get what you honestly want. Go buy an old Nokia or a feature phone. But honestly, you don't know what you are talking about.

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