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Touch panel shipments for Apple's iPhone expected to drop 15-20% in Q2 2012

Seven months after the launch of the iPhone 4S, suppliers are expecting shipments to slip 15 to 20 percent in the current quarter, as customers begin to hold off for Apple's next-generation handset.

TPK Holding and Wintek, two companies that make touch panels for the iPhone 4S, are expected to see their shipments drop by as much as 20 percent in the second quarter of 2012, according to DigiTimes. That's because the iPhone 4S is now "moving into the final stage of its product life cycle," the report said.

Apple's next iPhone is expected to be a significant upgrade over the iPhone 4S, and the touch panel will be one of the hardware components receiving an upgrade. Last month, it was said that Apple will adopt in-cell touch panels for its next handset, which could reduce the thickness of the component by 0.44 millimeters.

If Apple does adopt in-cell touch panel technology, it would mean that TPK and Wintek would no longer receive orders for separate touch panel components from Apple. Apple's rumored new display design would embed the touch sensor within the LCD screen, rather than having a separate touch sensor layer.

TPK has already publicly reported that it expects its revenues to fall about 10 percent sequentially in the second quarter of 2012. Wintek's revenues hit a record high in March, but they slid 11.4 percent month over month in April.

Citing industry sources, Friday's report said that shipments of touch panels from both TPK and Wintek to Apple in the second half of 2012 will be just one-third of the shipments the companies saw in the first half of the year.

In addition to new touchscreen technology, Apple's next iPhone is also widely rumored to offer faster data connections with a new 4G LTE chip. The third-generation iPad became Apple's first LTE device when it launched in March.