Touch technology takes off

Touch technology takes off
Spurred by the popularity of Apple Inc.'s iPhone and its elegant user interface, global shipments of touch-screen display modules are expected to more than double from 2008 to 2012, according to iSuppli Corp.

Given this strong expected growth, about 60 companies plan to show off their touch-screen sensor, module or system technology during the 2008 Society for Information Display (SID) International Symposium, Seminar and Exhibition.

The worldwide market for touch-screen modules will amount to 341 million units and $3.4 billion in value in 2008. iSuppli forecasts that the market will grow to 833 million units by 2013.

“The total number of touch-screen technologies including those in production and emerging products has increased from 16 distinct approaches in mid 2007 to 20 different touch-screen technologies this month,” said Jennifer Colegrove, senior analyst for emerging displays at iSuppli. “New touch-screen technologies are being commercialized and 12 types of touch-screen technologies now have commenced mass production.”

Projected gains

Catalyzed by Apple’s highly successful iPhone, sales of touch screens using projected capacitive technology are growing dramatically. Projected capacitive touch-screen technology is more durable and has better transmittance than the more commonly-used resistive technology. More touch-screen manufacturers are developing and commercializing this type of screen. Furthermore, the average pricing gap between the capacitive and resistive display types is dwindling, making the technology more attractive.

Can’t resist

Resistive is the most commonly used touch-screen technology in the marketplace, accounting for 91 percent of global units in 2007. However, due to low Average Selling Prices (ASP) for this technology, it accounted for only 52 percent the total touch-screen market revenue.

Although it is not very durable and has poor transmissivity, resistive’s low price and high responsiveness to both finger and stylus touch has made it the No.-1 touch-screen technology in terms of unit shipments during the last few years.

More technologies to come

Despite the total of eight distinct, commercialized touch-screen technologies—i.e. resistive, surface capacitive, projected capacitive, surface acoustic wave, infrared, bending wave, active digitizer and optical imaging—even more novel touch-screen approaches are being invented. These include new touch technologies from N-trig, Sony, Sharp, TMD and Samsung. Several companies recently have announced plans to commence touch-screen manufacturing. Furthermore, several mergers and acquisitions have occurred, launching new participants into the market.

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