The single-layer multi-touch applications, mass production of which has been enabled by touch IC designer Goodix' technology, requires only a single layer of ITO film to support 5- to 10-point touch. Previously, the technology worked well only on small-size touch panels, but Goodix has made improvements to enable mass production of the technology on 7- to 8-inch touch panels.
Goodix's medium-size panel clients include China-based makers O-film and Top Touch and their products are mainly shipped to Lenovo. The two touch panel makers will also stand a chance of enterin the supply chain of Intel's Windows-based white-box tablets.
The technology has been considered the best solution for mid-range and entry-level smartphones because it can reduce the use of ITO films down from two to one and still features touch capabilities similar to those of traditional GFF technology. Since the second half of 2012, when the technology entered mass production, single-layer multi-touch panels have seen growing penetrating in China's smartphone market.
However, the single-layer multi-touch technology's high-precision sensors still require the kind of photolithography tools that is usually needed to handle ITO film. For thin-flim touch makers, switching to the single-layer multi-touch technology would mean extra equipment costs. But for glass-based solution suppliers, they already own such photolithography tools, and would find it easier and cheaper to adopt sigle-layer multi-touch technology.
Several LCD panel makers also use the technology to mass produce on-cell embedded touch panels, tapping the mid-range and entry-level smartphone touch panel market. The technology has given a breakthrough to glass-type touch panel player who were losing out in the market.
Currently, the price of a GFF-based 5-inch touch panel is about US$6 at the lowest, while a single-layer multi-touch equvilanet is about US$5, according to estimates by Digitimes Research.
For the production of single-layer multi-touch panels, the thin film-type is technically efficient, while the glass-type has a higher yield rate. The thin film-type currently accounts for the majority of single-layer multi-touch panel shipments, with a 70% share against the glass type's 30% in China's smartphone touch panel market.
With the single-layer multi-touch technology expading its reach to larger-size panels, the mainstream sizes of related touch panels have already risen to 5- to 5.5-inch, amid China telecom carriers' move to cancel subsidies for 4.5-inch smartphones.
As the market demands for cheaper tablets, Goodix has since first-quarter 2014 started cooperating with touch panel makers to push the single-layer multi-touch technology into the 7- to 8-inch tablet market. Lenovo, which has been aggressively expanding in emerging markets, was the earliest adopter of such touch panels, which come from O-film and Top Touch.
China-based BYD, which is aggressively seeking tablet ODM orders from first-tier vendors as well as Intel, and which is seeking to establish a firm foothold in the tablet market, may also adopt the technology to reduce costs.
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