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Embedded touch panels to comprise over 50% of mobile phone displays by 2017

06 May 2016 David Hsieh

In 2016, embedded touch panels such as in-cell and on-cell thin-film transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display (LCD) and on-cell active matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) are showing strong growth in the touch display market for mobile phones including smartphones and feature phones.

Embedded touch means that the touch panel sensor is not independent, but integrated into the layers of the LCD or OLED panel-resulting in panel makers taking the job of touch panel makers. For many touch companies, their value add has been diminished since embedded touch was developed, because panel makers have a stronger stance since they integrate touch into the display.

According to IHS, touch panel shipments for mobile phone applications expanded by 11% from 1.30 billion units in 2014 to 1.44 billion units in 2015. Looking at the market share by panel type, embedded touch panels accounted for 43% in 2015, up almost 8 percentage points from 36% in 2014. The market share is expected to increase to 49% in 2016, and go over the 50% mark with 54% in 2017, surpassing the share of add-on types.

Looking at the shipments and share of touch panels by technology, shipments of hybrid in-cell TFT LCD are forecast to increase to 74 million units in 2016, up 23% year-over-year as Japan Display Inc. continues to expand shipments to Chinese smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi. Shipments of TFT backplane-type touch panels, which are being adopted by Apple, are also expected to rise 12% to 266 million units in 2016. As for the Vcom blocks type being supplied by panel makers like LG Display, BOE, Tianma and AUO, it is likely that shipments will increase by 164% with smartphone makers such as LG Electronics, Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad, Le Mobile and Lenovo expanding the adoption of Vcom blocks touch displays.

Moreover, shipments of on-cell AMOLED are projected to grow by 20% year-on-year to 266 million units in 2016. Samsung Electronics Co. is expanding the adoption of AMOLED panels to its mid- and low-end smartphone models like the Samsung Galaxy A, J and E series, and Samsung Display is increasing the supply of on-cell AMOLED panels to smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, ZTE, Gionee and Meizu.

In the case of on-cell TFT LCD panels, which are primarily applied in low-cost smartphones, the improvement in the yield has allowed on-cell TFT LCD to be offered at more competitive prices. Therefore, panel makers including Innolux, BOE, Tianma, CPT and HannStar are expected to expand shipments to 110 million units in 2016, a 26% increase from 2015.

The reasons why embedded touch panels are steadily increasing their share in the touch panel market for mobile phones can be summarized as follows:

1) A stable supply of low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) panels

2) Cost reduction through a simplified supply chain

3) Reduction in thickness via the integration of the display and touch panels

4) Improvement in added value

Along with the reasons above, the growth of embedded touch displays for mobile phones is likely to continue with shipments increasing steadily to 2017. Furthermore, embedded touch panels are expected to comprise more than 60% in 2020.

However, with the increase in embedded touch many questions are arising, and we look forward to answering these questions in our IHS Touch Panel Market Tracker.

The questions are:

  • How will the touch panel supply chain change as embedded solutions gain popularity?
  • As panel makers incorporate touch sensors into their display business, does it help LCD makers' profitability?
  • Embedded touch will gradually dominate mobile phone displays, but will it spill over to other applications like tablet PCs, notebooks and automotive?
  • If Apple is going to adopt flexible OLED in its iPhone, what will be its solution? Embedded touch will have many technical challenges on the flexible polymer film or the encapsulation layer.

David Hsieh is Director of Analysis & Research within the IHS Technology group
Posted on 6 May 2016



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