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This Potential Apple Inc. iPhone 7 Technology Just Went Into Mass Production

By Ashraf Eassa – Jan 5, 2016 at 8:45PM

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This new display technology that may well find its way into the next-generation iPhone just went into production. Here's what it could enable for this year's iPhones.

Those who like to follow Apple (AAPL 0.23%) component vendors probably know that one of the largest vendors of iPhone displays is a company called Japan Display or, more commonly, JDI.

In order to try to predict what sorts of features and functionality Apple's next-generation devices will come with, I try to look at what sorts of technologies that Apple's suppliers -- like JDI -- are working on and will have in production in time for the next iPhone release.

On Dec. 25, JDI announced that it had commenced mass production of a new generation of in-cell touch displays, branded Pixel Eyes 2. I strongly believe that the same core technology (of course, with modifications/enhancements developed in a technical collaboration with Apple) will be used in Apple's upcoming iPhone 7/7 Plus family of phones.

To that end, let's look at the key features that Pixel Eyes 2 brings to the table and what it could mean for the iDevice maker's next generation iPhone display and industrial design.

A resolution increase on iPhone 7 Plus?
When the iPhone 6 first launched, it wasn't too long before developers realized something interesting: even though the iPhone 6 Plus featured a 1920-by-1080 pixel display, images are being rendered at 2208-by-1242 internally and being downscaled to 1920-by-1080.

There are a number of hypotheses floating around as to why Apple chose this particular scheme for the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that Apple and its display suppliers couldn't produce 2242-by-1242 displays at a good enough cost structure to support mass production in 2014.

One feature that JDI touts for Pixel Eyes 2 displays is that it is "much easier to achieve higher resolution" compared to competing solutions (and presumably to the prior generation Pixel Eyes displays). This may be just the technology that Apple needs in order to actually show the full resolution that the iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus render internally.

Thinner bezels incoming?
One common complaint about the current iPhone designs is that the bezels, particularly compared to those on competing smartphones, are just too large. Apple could obviously make the phones smaller/more portable by slimming those bezels down.

According to a report from DigiTimes , Apple was considering a move from in-cell touch panels to on-cell panels thanks to "production bottlenecks" that were said to "[prevent] Apple from adding new features as well as increasing resolutions."

The report also claimed that a move away from in-cell touch panels could allow Apple to "develop bezel-free smartphones" as in-cell panels apparently currently struggle with touch sensitivity issues near the edges of the displays.

Interestingly, another feature that JDI highlighted about its Pixel Eyes 2 displays is that the "borders" around these displays can go from around 0.8 millimeters to just 0.5 millimeters. Given that, according to Apple's Dan Riccio, "every tenth of a millimeter in [Apple's] products is sacred," this technology should do wonders to allowing Apple to narrow those bezels.

Deeper blacks to appease iPhone buyers until OLEDs
A story that has gained a lot of traction in the press is that Apple is planning a shift away from liquid crystal displays toward organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDs. This technology offers a number of advantages, not the least of which is that black levels are virtually zero, providing essentially infinite contrast ratios.

However, this technology isn't expected to arrive in the iPhone until 2018, around when the company is expected to launch iPhone 8.

Until then, though, in order to effectively compete with other smartphone vendors that are using OLED-based displays, Apple needs to lower the black levels on the LCDs it uses by as much as possible.

Japan Display touts that its Pixel Eyes 2 displays implement "new materials" that ultimately allow for a "deep black level" (among other things). If Apple is able to offer displays with a contrast ratio of around 2000:1, this would represent a nice jump from the current iPhone displays and should do a good job tiding over Apple customers until OLED-based iPhones arrive.


Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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