Apple Patent Filing Details In-Cell Display for ‘iPhone 5’

Following reports from earlier this year that Apple would use “in-cell” technology to reduce the thickness of the display in its next iPhone, the Cupertino company was granted a patent for the technology Tuesday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, AppleInsider discovered. In-cell technology integrates the touch and display areas of the display component, allowing for a thinner and lighter component.

In-Cell Display Apple PatentIn-cell display drawing from Apple’s 8,243,027 Patent (via AppleInsider)

The patent, No. 8,243,027, describes a “Touch screen liquid crystal display” in which the “liquid-crystal display (LCD) touch screens…integrate the touch sensing elements with the display circuitry.”

Current iPhone display components contain a separate touch layer on top of the actual display. In-cell merges the two layers allowing for the “same electrodes used for display updating to also be used for touch sensing,” as the patent filing describes. This not only reduces thickness and weight, but may also result in increased touch accuracy as using the same electrodes that already exist to drive the display means that a “higher touch resolution can be obtained with little to no additional cost.”

In-cell display conceptComparison of iPhone 4S display thickness (left) to that of a possible future iPhone (right) using in-cell display technology (via MacRumors).

Apple component suppliers Sharp, Toshiba Mobile Display, and LG all reportedly have the capability to manufacture in-cell displays and are said to be Apple’s source for the next generation iPhone. TPK and Wintek, suppliers for previous generations of iPhones, were purportedly not ready to meet Apple’s demand and have been phased out of the display parts chain for at least this generation.

Apple’s use of in-cell displays will allow it two options: the creation of an overall thinner device or one of roughly the same thickness but with more room for internal components, such as a larger battery to accommodate new features like LTE.

The next iPhone is said to be already in production, with multiple part leaks in the past few weeks. It is expected to be unveiled at a special media event on September 12.