New technology advances in TDDI (Touch and Display Driver Integration) represents a potential game-changer for the smartphone industry.
With the ability to integrate the touch sensor and display controller onto a single chip, future handheld and tablet devices could be truly differentiated from today’s current offerings, enabling end products that are thinner, have more vibrant displays, have edge-to-edge screen designs, and even lowering the price tag for consumers. This all translates into improved consumer experiences with smartphones and tablets.
By the same token, the fact that TDDIs can be produced by a single manufacturer, removes the need for a secondary component supplier, thereby lowering the bill of materials, streamlines the supply chain, and reduces assembly costs. With an integrated chip, smartphone manufacturers also benefit from reserving more space for a larger battery into their designs.
While Apple, JDI and Synaptics are the three major in-cell touch IP owners, so far, only Synaptics has licensed its IP to panel makers which are keen to add touch controllers into their display panels, a move that would help them raise module prices and revenues.
Apple’s in-cell touch system, under in-house development, is exploring TDDIs with the possibility of integrating its fingerprint sensors within the display driver into one chip, which could replace its iconic home button for its future iOS devices. However, it seems highly unlikely that Apple will be licensing its proprietary in-cell touch system to anyone.
Next is Japan Display’s hybrid in-cell ‘Pixel Eyes’ system, but as a major LTPS panel maker, it may be a difficult business model for them to sell its panels than it is to license its IP to panel makers which views the company as a competitive threat. It seems more likely that Japan Display will follow a royalty model for its in-cell system.
So far, it seems Synaptics is keeping ahead of the pack after it first introduced a TDDI solution into the market earlier in 2016. While the uptake in demand was relatively slow, the availability of Synaptic’s real single IC chip TDDI in Q2, 2016 saw early licensees, such as BOE, Tyanma and Sharp, adopting in-cell TDDIs into newer designs.
The latest revised demand forecast from IHS Markit sees 2016 as a springboard year for TDDIs, projecting a doubling in unit demand from 50 million units in 2016 to 100 million in 2017, particularly as Synaptics’s in-cell system becomes the prevailing standard and per unit costs becomes lower.
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