Sharp manufacturing displays for the new iPhone and shipping this month

Posted on Aug 2 2012 - 1:37pm by Phalgun Shenoy

Apple’s relationship with Samsung has been on the rocks lately and it was earlier said that Cupertino based technology giant may be working with Sharp on the next generation displays for upcoming devices such as the iPad 3, iPhone 5 and the rumored Apple iTV.

“We believe Apple has shifted display production and that Sharp has now become a large panel supplier, based on our checks. We believe that the Gen 6 Kameyama facility has been exclusively taken over for Apple purposes with Apple purchasing $500 million to $1 billion of equipment for the manufacturing of iPad 3 and iPhone 5 LTE displays,” said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies.

Now, Japan’s Sharp Corp. has cleared the air and said that they will be shipping screens that will find its home in the new Apple iPhone soon.

“Shipments will start in August,” Sharp’s new president, Takashi Okuda, said at a press briefing in Tokyo on Thursday after the company released its latest quarterly earnings.
Sharp’s president didn’t give any specific date as to when the shipment will happen, except to the claim that it will commence from this month. The new Apple iPhone 5 is expected to start shipping in October, well ahead of the Christmas shopping season.

Apple is said to be preparing for a major product launch on September 12, and we have a strong feeling that next gen iPhone 5 is what they will be launching on that day. Apple identified Sharp as one of their suppliers last year. Sharp is among three companies – LG Display Co Ltd, Sharp, Japan Display Inc.- that will be supplying display panels for Apple’s latest offering. Sharp, however, did not comment on what its relation with Apple was, but the display panels are widely speculated to be made for next gen iPhone.

Recently leaked images of iPhone 5 suggest that the next generation iPhone will ship with a 4 inch touch screen as opposed to 3.5 inch screen on predecessors. Previously, Apple had stated that 4 inch screens aren’t ideal for mobiles devices, but seems like they have changed their opinion; part of this decision is believed to be influenced by the steep rise in sales of 4 inch plus phones, especially the Samsung Galaxy S3 which hit 10 million sales by end of July. Samsung’s flagship phone for 2012 comes with 4.8 inch screen and the South Korean company has posted a record operating profit of $5.9 billion for the quarter ended June. As a result of bigger screens, the display on new iPhone will be 30% bigger than what is featured on current iPhones.

Apple is using a new approach to manufacture its displays which makes it thinner by 15%. The new technology that is adopted here is IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc) processes. IGZO offers power consumption figure that is comparable to OLED’s power consumption while being cheaper to manufacture. Displays made using IGZO process are only 25% thicker than displays based on OLED technology. Besides, the new technology also depends on oxide material based thin film transistors, which offers many advantages from manufacturing point of view. The IGZO transistors apparently feature electron mobility that is 20 to 30 times higher than that of amorphous-silicon thin-film transistors.

“The IGZO LCD panel’s performance outclasses anything attainable with conventional amorphous-silicon TFT panels,” said Shuji Sako, deputy group general manager of Sharp’s Display Device Business Group.

Apart from this, the new screens will also be using something called “in cell panels” which embeds touch sensors into the liquid crystal display, thus eliminating the need for another touch screen layer that is found in current iPhones. While the new technology will shave around half a millimeter from the device, it doesn’t mean the end product will be thin as the extra available space may be used for additional components that the phone will be carrying.

OLED will not come to Apple devices as of now, but Apple and Sharp are said to be working together to jointly develop an OLED panel that will be used on iPad and iPhone in the future. It is rumored that the two companies are in the process of inventing new printing technology that will allow OLED to be printed onto a film which can be later stuck to the glass, thus boosting display yields to a “tremendous” degree.

These OLED panels are said to be reserved for smaller devices such as iPhone and iPad, and the rumored iTV may not use this technology, however, there’s always a possibility that Apple is working on something revolutionary which will give other TV manufacturers a run for their money.

Apple currently rules 34% of the mobile smartphone market. With the launch of iPhone 5, which is expected to feature a faster internals and better display, combined with iOS 6 which is said to be stuffed with 200 new features, Apple is all set to increase their share in the market. Will iPhone 5 be part of your shopping bag this Christmas? Let us know using the comment form below.

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