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Apple may use in-cell touch panels to make next iPhone thinner, lighter

iPhone 5 concept

A new day, a new Apple iPhone rumor. According to Taiwan-based DigiTimes — a frequent source for Apple rumors with a spotty record for getting the details right — says that Apple will “likely” use something called in-cell touch panels in the next iPhone. Produced by Sharp and Toshiba, in-cell touch panels allow devices to weigh less, and have a significantly thinner profile than other types of touchscreen technology.

In-cell touch panels incorporate the touch mechanism inside the color filters, known as “thin-film transistors” (TFT), rather than placing them on top of the TFT. This removes the need to have addition glass in a touchscreen device, thus allowing it to be thinner and lighter.

While this shift to in-cell could result in major changes to the next iPhone’s form factor, the repercussions are even bigger for Apple’s supply chain partners. As mentioned, Sharp and Toshiba are the only companies that currently make in-cell touch panels. That means Apple would have to change from using Taiwanese companies, like Wintek, to get it’s touchscreens, and instead go with Japanese companies (Sharp and Toshiba) — a major shift for those regions, to say the least.

Adding to the speculation of a completely redesigned iPhone (as if we haven’t heard THAT before), some expect Apple to use Liquidmetal to make the body of the new iPhone. Liquidmetal is a smooth metal alloy that can be formed into custom shapes, similar to plastic injection. Using Liquidmetal would allow Apple to create unibody iPhones (and iPads and iPod touches).

All of this is, of course, complete, unsubstantiated rumor. But the fact remains: Apple is going to release a new iPhone. It will come out sometime between June and October (probably closer to October). And it will look like, well, something. Right now, these are the best guesses as to what we might be able to expect. Are either, or both, of these details right? Hard to say — but if you know the answer, never hesitate to call.