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Apple said to be eyeing new display tech for next iPhone

The iPhone 5 is just a few months old but its "in-cell" touch technology may already be old news, according to a new report.

Apple's iPhone 5.
Apple's iPhone 5.

Apple's use of the so-called "in-cell" touch technology in the iPhone 5 could be short-lived, according to a new report that claims the company is already eyeing alternatives for its next iPhone model.

Citing supply chain rumors, The China Times (translation) says Apple is currently evaluating technology called Touch On Display from Innolux, the company formerly named Chimei Innolux which Apple last year listed as one of its component suppliers.

The reason for the change, the report claims, is due to interference with the current in-cell technology where both the display and touch are embedded in the same panel. By comparison, the Touch On technology offers "good" touch sensitivity with minimal thickness, something that's become increasingly import as mobile phones get thinner.

Display technology has been a major feature of the iPhone since Apple's first model, which at 3.5-inches was considerably larger than most competing smartphones when it was released. Apple later increased the pixel density while keeping the 3.5-inch size, technology it called the Retina Display. That same technology ended up on the iPad and high-end versions of Apple's MacBook Pro notebooks.

The display continues to be one of the most expensive parts of the iPhone. A virtual teardown by IHS iSuppli in September estimated the combined display and touch screen to cost Apple $44, putting it well ahead of the components for wireless antennas, NAND flash memory, and the A-series processor.

Rumors have swirled in recent weeks that Apple is preparing an intermediary upgrade to the iPhone 5 for release as soon as this spring. Alleged shots of its rear casing cropped up last month on a French technology blog that's been known to get accurate shots of Apple components in the past. Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White this week said that he expects the company to roll out a "5S" model in May or June with "more color patterns and screen sizes," similar to what Apple offers on its latest iPod Touch models.