IPhone 5 Features: How Apple Will Create A Thinner, Sleeker Design; A Look At The Rumored ‘In-Cell’ Technology

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On Tuesday, Apple received a patent for touch screen LCD technology that will result in a thinner, lighter panel for its iPhone 5 release, according to Apple Insider. This news comes just as a new rumor has surfaced saying that Apple will begin accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12, the same day the phone will allegedly be unveiled.

The technology found in Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,243,027 is said to integrate "touch sensing elements with display circuitry," and the paperwork was filed for a "Touch screen liquid crystal display." The patent describes how the touch-sensing elements would be integrated within the LCD, differing from the current technology which adds a touch layer over the device's screen. The filing also cross-references various properties involving multi-touch and LCD technologies.

The LCD touchscreen technology found in the current generation iPhone 4S uses a screen that is "glass-on-glass" or "on cell." This means that the touch sensitive capacitive element is located in between the device's top glass and protective Gorilla Glass layer. Underneath the top glass of the LCD is the liquid crystal array, a bottom glass and backlit assembly.

Smartphone screens are typically manufactured in a way that uses this film transistors overlaid on the top or bottom of mother-glasses to achieve color and brightness. These transistors apply a charge to the liquid crystals held in the cells, allowing backlight transmission for the desired pixel color or brightness, as Apple Insider details.

However, the in-cell technology that is likely to appear in Apple's iPhone 5 removes this top glass layer by combining the liquid crystal and touch sensing elements into one single structure. The patent filing maps out the various ways to integrate these elements with a diagram pinpointing the size of each layer.

The filing contains the following description:

"By integrating the layered structure of an LCD and a touch sensor, a variety of benefits can be achieved. This integration can include combining or interleaving the layered structures described above. Integration can further include eliminating redundant structures and/or finding dual purposes (e.g. one purpose for the touch function and another for the display function) for particular layers or structures. This can permit some layers to be eliminated, which can reduce cost and thickness of the touch screen LCD, as well as simplify manufacturing."

Back in April, rumors sparked that indicated Apple would integrate "in- cell" technology into its iPhone 5 in order to create an even thinner, sleeker and lighter model that its predecessor. It was recently reported that Japan's Sharp Corp. had begun shipping these screens, indicating that production of the iPhone 5 is in full swing and the release date may be near.

"Shipments will begin in August," Sharp President Takashi Okuda said in a press briefing in Tokyo in early August. He did not specify any shipments beyond this month.

Sharp is one of the three companies expected to build the screen for Apple's iPhone 5 and was officially identified as a supplier last year. When speaking to Reuters, the company did not specify their relationship with Apple or confirm that the screens will be used for the iPhone 5, but it is highly predicted that the recently shipped screens will end up on the new smartphone. The other two suppliers of the display panels are LG Display Co. Ltd. and Japan Display Inc.

The patent filings discovered on Tuesday describe a display that is strikingly similar to the rumored "in-cell" technology, but details a variety of ways to integrate a touch sensitive element into the LCD component rather than just one method.

                                                                                           Let The Pre-Orders Begin

In addition to more evidence pointing to the technology likely to be seen in the iPhone 5 displays, Rene Ritchie of iMore built on the bit of rumor and speculation reported earlier in the summer. The iPhone 5 pre-orders will allegedly begin on Sept. 12 with a release date still planned for nine days later on Sept. 21, Ritchie writes. The iPhone 5 will launch in international markets the following month, rumored to begin on Oct. 5.

"The information on Apple pre-orders comes from sources that have provided iMore with accurate iPhone related launch dates in the past," Ritchie writes. This is the same website that launched the iPhone 5 Sept. 21 release date rumor, but Apple has yet to confirm anything.

Although pre-orders are rumored to begin on Sept. 12, a Chinese e-commerce website known as Taobao had begun its pre-sales back in mid-July. Reuters reported that the online vendor began accepting pre-orders complete with phony photos and purported technical specifications and features. The website was also asking for a deposit of 1,000 yuan ($160) to pre-order the iPhone 5.

                                                                                  Other Features To Expect

The newly discovered patent delves into the technology behind the slimmer display said to come with the iPhone 5, but what else can fans expect? Here is a roundup of the rumored features, from body design to iOS functions.

  • 4-inch display
  • Improved quad-core processor, likely manufactured using 32nm process tech
  • Improved graphics and a better camera
  • New Dock connection, likely to be Thunderbolt or mini-USB
  • Tougher glass
  • Thinner chassis
  • International support for those 4G/LTE networks which exist
  • Much-improved iCloud integration
  • iOS 6: many improvements in Siri
  • iOS 6: Apple Maps
  • iOS 6: Passbook, potentially though not necessarily featuring NFC payment support
  • iOS 6: Facebook and Twitter integration
  • Bigger, thinner front plate
  • In-Cell touch panels
  • Redesigned speaker grills
  • Migrated FaceTime Camera
  • Migrated Earphone Jack
  • New Camera Opening
  • Advanced Haptics
  • OLED Display
  • Near-Field Communication
  • The iWallet
  • Apple Avatars
  • The Photographer's Timer
  • 3D Photography
  • 3D Object Recognition
  • Multiplayer Gaming

Fans will have to wait until Apple unveils its iPhone 5 to see this features confirmed, but these rumors and speculations come from other filed patents and allusions from Apple executives. Read about these more in detail here.

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