New display tech making its way to iPad, says analyst

Apple's iPad is getting Sharp's "IGZO" display -- a technology that was slated to appear in the iPad when it launched.

Third-generation iPad display.
Third-generation iPad display. Apple

Apple's iPad could be getting Sharp's latest and greatest display tech after all, according to an analyst who spoke with CNET.

That technology would be IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide), which Sharp began volume production of in April. In that announcement, Sharp specifies sizes and resolutions that match or exceed the third-generation iPad's display.

"It looks like it's happening. It's in our published research," said Richard Shim an analyst at DisplaySearch. "That is, Sharp is supplying the IGZO panels for the new iPad."

Apple was planning to get the IGZO display tech into the third-generation iPad by the launch date in March, according to Raymond Soneira, the founder, president and CEO of DisplayMate Technologies. That didn't happen, though, because Sharp didn't have the display tech ready in time. So, Apple had to fall back on more conventional amorphous silicon technology, Soneira told CNET in May.

Though Soneira remains skeptical that Apple is using IGZO right now -- citing rumored licensing issues that Sharp has with key display tech -- he did add, in response to an e-mail query today, that if IGZO is in the iPad, he would be eager to compare the new display with current iPads.

Whatever the case, IGZO is coming. Because of smaller transistors and circuit elements, more light can pass through an IGZO display, reducing the number of backlights needed, resulting in a thinner display assembly, among other benefits.

"It will also be coming to laptops, monitors, and televisions, possibly even Apple's," Soneira wrote previously. "IGZO is desperately needed for the new iPad...because of the high power and large batteries it currently needs."

It wouldn't be unprecedented for Apple to adopt key technology after a product is released. Apple has been using an updated -- and unannounced -- A5 processor in the $399 iPad 2 that can deliver significantly better battery life than iPads with the older chip.

Similarly, a third-generation iPad equipped with an updated display could potentially deliver better battery life or other as-yet-unknown advantages.

Updated on May 30 at 1:00 a.m. PDT

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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