Apple iPhone fuelling touchscreen demand


13 Mar 2008

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Apple’s iPhone is fuelling demand for touchscreen technologies, with global shipment revenue of the leading touchscreen devices expected to rise to US$4.4bn by 2012, up from US$2.4bn in 2006, according to iSuppli.

“Catalysed by Apple’s iPhone, sales of touchscreens using projected-capacitive technology are growing dramatically,” said Jennifer Colegrove, senior analyst for emerging displays at iSuppli.

“Projected capacitive touchscreen technology is more durable and has better transmittance than the more commonly used resistive technology. More touchscreen manufacturers are developing and commercialising this type of screen.

“Furthermore, the average pricing gap between the capacitive and resistive display types is dwindling, making the technology more attractive,” she added.

Resistive is the most commonly used touchscreen technology in the marketplace due to its low price and responsiveness to finger and stylus touch, stated iSuppli. However, the resistive market now is suffering a shortage of Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) film used to make such screens due to production expansions among several major manufacturers and limited numbers of ITO film suppliers.

Other types of transparent conductive materials such as conductive polymer, carbon nanotube and Antimony Tin Oxide (ATO) have an entry opportunity now, iSuppli said, pointing out that Fujitsu has already started using conductive polymer for some of its resistive-type touchscreens.

ISuppli said there are eight distinct, commercialised touchscreen technologies – resistive, surface capacitive, projected capacitive, surface acoustic wave, infra-red, bending wave, active digitiser and optical imaging – but that even more novel touchscreen approaches have been invented. These include new touch technologies from N-trig, Sony, Sharp, TMD and Samsung, with several more companies recently announcing plans to commence touchscreen manufacturing.

As well as handset devices, applications for retail, kiosk, public signage, financial, e-book and medical usage are increasingly adopting touchscreen monitors to accommodate consumer preferences for intuitive and simple user interfaces.

By Niall Byrne