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Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 06:27 am PT (09:27 am ET)

Sharp rumored to provide IGZO displays for Apple's next iPhone, iPad

A new report claims that Apple will turn to Sharp and switch to new IGZO LCD panels for both its next iPad and iPhone, allowing for thinner devices packing high-resolution displays with low power consumption.

A closer partnership with Sharp is said to have resulted in modified IGZO — or indium, gallium, zinc — technology to reach 330 dots-per-inch screen resolution, according to analyst Peter Misek with Jeffries. Sharp's IGZO technology is expected to allow Apple to offer a high-definition display without using the IPS technology currently featured in the iPhone or iPad for superior viewing angles, nor will it necessitate dual-bar LED backlighting.

"In our view, this should lead to several design advantages, namely the device can be thinner, battery life should be longer, and the overall experience for users should be meaningfully improved," Misek wrote in a note to investors this week.

IGZO panels are expected to initially appear in Apple's third-generation iPad. Misek said that Apple will be able to obtain the panels at a lower-than-expected price due to a high capital commitment from the company to Sharp.

He also expects that the technology would be featured in a new sixth-generation iPhone featuring high-speed long-term evolution 4G data, expected to arrive in 2012.

"The IGZO technology is perfect in that it offers near-OLED power consumption while having a lower cost and thinness that is only 25% greater than OLED, based on our checks," Misek wrote.

Earlier this month, rumors indicated that Apple was looking for a new dual-LED design to serve as a backlight for its third-generation iPad. Two LED light bars were said to be necessary to maintain the tablet's existing level of brightness with a higher density display.

But Misek believes that Apple could achieve that same goal without the need for two LED backlights by adopting Sharp's IGZO technology. Sharp began producing IGZO panels for mobile devices at its Kameyama No. 2 plant in the middle of its 2011 fiscal year.

Sharp has a bullish forecast for its for IGZO technology, and plans to ramp up production of LCD panels with the new technology accordingly throughout 2012. The primary use for IGZO displays, Sharp has said, will be for "tablet terminals."

Sharp


Going forward, Misek said he also believes Apple and Sharp will jointly develop OLED panels for the iPhone and iPad, and those displays could appear in devices in the next two years. Sharp is said to have a new technology that "prints" an OLED panel onto a film that is then deposited onto glass.

"The yield improvements have been enormous and have enabled some trial runs to produce commercial yields," he wrote. "We expect Sharp/Apple to have a line testing this by the middle of 2012 with 2013 output possible."

At first, OLED displays are only expected to appear in Apple's smaller portable devices like the iPhone and iPad. Though Misek expects that Apple will release a full-fledged television set in mid-2012, he said OLED technology will likely not be ready for larger sized displays until 2015.