Apple to adopt new 3D Touch technology for OLED iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2017
Apple is expected to replace current 3D Touch technology with a new design based on thin film sensors when it introduces a next-generation iPhone with OLED display, according to noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.




In a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider, Kuo says the forthcoming iPhone will feature a 3D Touch module located beneath an OLED panel, a layered arrangement first introduced with iPhone 6s in 2015.

Instead of using a sensor design involving flexible printed circuit boards, however, Apple is predicted to make the switch to thin film, a component package promising enhanced sensitivity over existing implementations. The increased should provide a better overall user experience than the now two-year-old 3D Touch design, perhaps paving the way for gestures more complex than home screen quick actions and system-wide "peek and pop" previews.



Fitting a film sensor beneath an OLED panel is not easy, Kuo notes. Whereas current 3D Touch iterations integrate a rigid metal conductive plate as part of the layered sensor design, film sensor stacks do not, leaving the flexible OLED screen susceptible to deformation. To avoid potential damage from regular operation, a passive metal component will be placed under the film sensor to provide structural support, Kuo says.

The new sensor materials and design inevitably require a more involved lamination process that will drive up per module costs, which the analyst estimates will increase 10 to 20 percent compared to current 3D Touch sensors. Module suppliers GIS and TPK are expected to split orders and begin shipping out supply in March or April.

An evolution of Force Touch technology deployed in Apple Watch and MacBook trackpads, 3D Touch was originally billed as "the next generation of multi-touch" when it debuted on iPhone 6s.

Unlike Force Touch, which uses sensors deployed under the perimeter of an Apple Watch display to detect finger pressure, 3D Touch employs an array of capacitive sensors integrated with an iPhone display's backlight. The system measures the distance between iPhone's flexible cover glass and the sensor array many times per second, then translates the results into granular force and location data.

Film sensors operate under the same working principles, but offer more accurate deflection readings in a design that takes up much less internal space.

Apple is widely rumored to unveil its first OLED iPhone later this year alongside a pair of "s" model upgrades for the iPhone 7 series. The 10th anniversary edition, as some are calling the OLED variant, is expected to feature a stainless steel "glass sandwich" design and incorporate exotic technologies like wireless charging, an "invisible" under-panel home button and more. Most recently, rumblings from within Apple's supply chain suggest the OLED version will sport a wraparound 5.8-inch OLED "flex" screen with embedded sensors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,054moderator
    I've long wondered whether the Piezoelectric effect could be used in this application.  Or maybe it already is, but I've not seen any mention in any context or article.

    Piezoelectric Effect is the ability of certain materials to generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress. The word Piezoelectric is derived from the Greek piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and piezo, which is Greek for “push”.
  • Reply 2 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,615member
    I've long wondered whether the Piezoelectric effect could be used in this application.  Or maybe it already is, but I've not seen any mention in any context or article.
    That's something being used in the Xiaomi MiMix
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/11/xiaomi-mi-mix-review-this-is-what-the-future-of-smartphones-looks-like/
    radarthekat
  • Reply 3 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,054moderator
    gatorguy said:
    I've long wondered whether the Piezoelectric effect could be used in this application.  Or maybe it already is, but I've not seen any mention in any context or article.
    That's something being used in the Xiaomi MiMix
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/11/xiaomi-mi-mix-review-this-is-what-the-future-of-smartphones-looks-like/

    Except Xiaomi is using Piezoelectrics to produce sound, simply as a resonator, similar to the bone conduction earpiece technologies already in existence.  Nothing really new there. It's a whole different game to be using it as a pressure sensor at the microscopic scale and sensitivity required for something like 3D Touch.  
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    brucemccali
  • Reply 5 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,054moderator
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    You mean force touch.  Anyone who's ever pinched to zoom knows about multi-touch.  
    cornchipcaliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 18
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,873member
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    I use it on my iPhone 6s...now you know someone who uses it. 
    rattlhedcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 18
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    I don't use it much for apps, but I find it invaluable when typing and using force touch to scroll the cursor around written text to make corrections.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    Independent of whether this specific tech will find its way into the iPhone, it is a good example about how much innovation is yearly going into this little piece of consumer electronics. To the average customer it's just "oh well, better camera. Nothing to see here." Or "ok, again thinner, now waterproof and better screen and still this fancy force touch" etc.
    That some small change noted by customers can have a long and complex chain of innovations behind it, can easily be forgotten.

    For sure, from a customer perspective you don't care too much, like you don't care about the actual tech in your toaster or washing machine. Actually, even in TV sets or cars. And this is fine.  

    What I personally like is to see that there is still a heck of a lot of innovation going on, and that the user experience is the purpose and driver behind it. Not tech for the sake of nerdy features. 

    cornchipcaliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,615member
    gatorguy said:
    I've long wondered whether the Piezoelectric effect could be used in this application.  Or maybe it already is, but I've not seen any mention in any context or article.
    That's something being used in the Xiaomi MiMix
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/11/xiaomi-mi-mix-review-this-is-what-the-future-of-smartphones-looks-like/

    Except Xiaomi is using Piezoelectrics to produce sound, simply as a resonator, similar to the bone conduction earpiece technologies already in existence.  Nothing really new there. It's a whole different game to be using it as a pressure sensor at the microscopic scale and sensitivity required for something like 3D Touch.  
    Well I learned me sump'n. Using piezoelectrics for fingerprint authentication isn't anything new either as a search using those terms found. Nor are other types of touch or pressure control on a near microscopic scale using piezoelectrics. The tech is already available for Apple's Force Touch and may be used now. AppleInsider ran an article years ago discussing what in hindsight sure sounds like Force Touch.
    http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/07/27/apple_investigating_flat_key_less_keyboard_using_acoustic_cues.html
    (Edit: The link to the old AI article may give you a 404 error depending on how you get there. Odd.)
    and the associated patent:
    http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-adv.html&r=18&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=(apple.AS.+AND+20110721.PD.)&OS=an/apple+and+pd/07/21/2011&RS=(AN/apple+AND+PD/20110721)

    Nothing I'd really read up on before or noted where it's used. Thanks Radar!

    Good primer here for us non-engineers:
    http://www.imore.com/science-behind-taptics-and-force-touch
    edited January 2017 radarthekat
  • Reply 10 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,054moderator
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    I've long wondered whether the Piezoelectric effect could be used in this application.  Or maybe it already is, but I've not seen any mention in any context or article.
    That's something being used in the Xiaomi MiMix
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/11/xiaomi-mi-mix-review-this-is-what-the-future-of-smartphones-looks-like/

    Except Xiaomi is using Piezoelectrics to produce sound, simply as a resonator, similar to the bone conduction earpiece technologies already in existence.  Nothing really new there. It's a whole different game to be using it as a pressure sensor at the microscopic scale and sensitivity required for something like 3D Touch.  
    Well I learned me sump'n. Using piezoelectrics for fingerprint authentication isn't anything new either as a search using those terms found. Nor are other types of touch or pressure control on a near microscopic scale using piezoelectrics. The tech is already available for Apple's Force Touch and may be used now. AppleInsider ran an article years ago discussing what in hindsight sure sounds like Force Touch.
    http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/07/27/apple_investigating_flat_key_less_keyboard_using_acoustic_cues.html
    (Edit: The link to the old AI article may give you a 404 error depending on how you get there. Odd.)
    and the associated patent:
    http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-adv.html&r=18&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=(apple.AS.+AND+20110721.PD.)&OS=an/apple+and+pd/07/21/2011&RS=(AN/apple+AND+PD/20110721)

    Nothing I'd really read up on before or noted where it's used. Thanks Radar!

    Good primer here for us non-engineers:
    http://www.imore.com/science-behind-taptics-and-force-touch
    Interesting reads.  
  • Reply 11 of 18
    wigbywigby Posts: 689member
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    You mean force touch.  Anyone who's ever pinched to zoom knows about multi-touch.  
    You mean 3D Touch. Force Touch is only on the Watch. 3D Touch is only on the phones.
  • Reply 12 of 18
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,527member
    wigby said:
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    You mean force touch.  Anyone who's ever pinched to zoom knows about multi-touch.  
    You mean 3D Touch. Force Touch is only on the Watch. 3D Touch is only on the phones.
    I use 3D Touch all the time for camera, in iMessage, opening some apps to get short cuts.  It isn't well known I guess - I am constantly reminding my wife on how to access the "selfie" cam with the short cut.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    wigby said:
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    You mean force touch.  Anyone who's ever pinched to zoom knows about multi-touch.  
    You mean 3D Touch. Force Touch is only on the Watch. 3D Touch is only on the phones.
    Not correct:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_Touch

    "Beginning with the Apple Watch, Force Touch has been introduced to many of the products within Apple's lineup including Retina MacBookMacBook ProMagic Trackpad 2, and flagship iPhone models like the iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7."
  • Reply 14 of 18
    macxpress said:
    bdkennedy said:
    No one I know that has an iPhone 6s and above, uses or even knows about multi-touch.
    I use it on my iPhone 6s...now you know someone who uses it. 
    I use it when I'm bored and I have nothing else to do on my phone, so I just start force touching ever app icon. I do this so I don't feel like a dupe and to pretend like this feature is useful.
    cali
  • Reply 15 of 18

    3D Touch is getting more and more useful now.

    Earlier, the best advantage for me with it was the ability to move the cursor to any place in the text I was typing. Now, with all the interaction I can do with Notifications, it is getting to be a real useful, time-saving option.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 18
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,249member
    Just as an aside but kind of connected to the topic ...  The touch sensors in the Watch astounds me.   Having only very recently even touched one (no pun intended)  when I saw the log in screen for entering the four digit code I looked at the tiny squares and looked at my finger tip size and said 'no way!'  I was blown away when I tried and had no error or miss selection and not once has tapping in the four digits failed.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 18
    AI_liasAI_lias Posts: 294member
    hopefully will make the iPhone lighter. My current iPhone 6s Plus is quite heavy because of 3D Touch, and I wouldn't the extra weight in an iPhone 6s, but the 6s Plus is already big, and being also heavy makes it harder to jog with. I do use 3D Touch all the time. Not the pop/peek feature, just the context menu.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    MacPro said:
    Just as an aside but kind of connected to the topic ...  The touch sensors in the Watch astounds me.   Having only very recently even touched one (no pun intended)  when I saw the log in screen for entering the four digit code I looked at the tiny squares and looked at my finger tip size and said 'no way!'  I was blown away when I tried and had no error or miss selection and not once has tapping in the four digits failed.  
    I'm still amazed at everything the apple watch can do especially given it's small size.  Technology is just incredible.
    watto_cobra
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