Sony has reportedly been tapped to make the cutting-edge in-cell displays bound for Apple's next iPhone and will start manufacture of the screens alongside four other companies by the end of May.
A report from IHS Displaybank noted (via "How To" Arena) that the Japanese electronics giant began manufacture of the so-called "in-cell" panels in February and will significantly ramp-up production this month in preparation of a rumored fall iPhone launch, according to the Taipei Times.
Sony will join fellow Japanese manufacturers Sharp Corp and Toshiba Mobile Display, as well as South Korea's LG Display Co in a combined effort to furnish Apple with enough panels for an expected fall launch.
In-cell screen tech allows for thinner smartphones because its design embeds the display's capacitive touch sensors into the LCD filter array rather than stacking a two components on separate pieces of glass. Due to the technology's complexity, however, the average fabrication yield is relatively low, which has forced Apple to secure the components from a number of suppliers.
“Even for those companies that start mass production in May, they can only reach an average yield of 65 to 70 percent at present,” said IHS Displaybank senior analyst Stone Wu. He added that companies making the IPS units used in the current iPhone 4S see yields of about 80 to 85 percent.
Taiwanese display makers AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux are said to also be readying in-cell products, however the companies are not expected to be partnering with Apple as their facilities won't be ready until the second quarter of 2012. AU Optronics is already an Apple supplier and is rumored to be making LCDs for Apple's unannounced 'iPad mini,' which could see a debut in the third or fourth quarter.
While in-cell panels may see some use in high-end devices, it is projected that current capacitive display technology will account for the majority of touchscreen shipments in 2012 and 2013, with 69.5 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively. Apple pushed the envelope when it introduced the high-resolution Retina Display in the iPhone 4, and is perhaps looking to do the same with in-cell.
Rumors have said that the sixth-generation handset will sport a display measuring at least 4-inches diagonally, which would make it the first Apple handset to stray from the 3.5-inch form factor introduced with the original iPhone in 2007.