Apple almost never confirms its component suppliers, and for various reasons, the suppliers only rarely confirm that they’re working with Apple. That’s the only major reason that we’d normally be skeptical about what’s shown below: the first pictures and diagrams of a touchscreen display that a Taiwanese company claims is being used in an upcoming iPhone. It’s a 2.8” display—shown here alongside a newer 3.2” version—two sizes that would enable Apple to start shrinking both iPhones and touchscreen iPods from the current 3.5” screen size found in its first-generation models.
The developer of these displays, Host Optical, has shown what it describes as a “projected capacitance touch panel,” complete with a collection of characteristics that it suggests are superior to the ones being used in the original iPhone. According to the company, the displays have “no significant” aging effect—they don’t get progressively less sensitive over time—and are claimed to be more durable than alternatives, waterproof, plus resistant to high humidities and temperatures. Since one of the major concerns over current-generation iPhones is the continued touch sensitivity of their screens, Host’s version could be a nice step up.
Also significant are the sizes the display comes in. The 2.8” screen is shown as having a 52.6mm (2.1”) by 67.7mm (2.7”) component footprint, with an actual viewing area of 45.6mm (1.8”) by 60mm (2.4”). An additional 15-20mm (0.6”-0.8”) of height is added by the black frame with Home button hole, providing a place for the screen’s control circuitry and connector to rest as well. A newer 3.2” version is closer in size to the current-generation iPhone’s front face.
To be clear, we believe that there is zero chance that a 2.8” screen is going to be in Apple’s first 3G version of the iPhone, but as a component for an iPhone mini/nano, as well as a fourth-generation iPod nano, it makes a lot more sense. Notably, Host’s displays place two and only two sensors off to the right of the ear speaker, a detail that doesn’t track with what we’ve heard about the 3G model. Another difference is the size of the black frames, which have significantly more space between the screen and Home button than current iPhone faceplates. Changes such as these would be precedented in Apple portable designs—the initially unusual rebalancings of iPod nano screen and Click Wheel locations relative to the iPod mini and full-sized iPod, for instance—and might also be necessary to give future iPhones enough ear-to-mouth distance to be functional as handsets.
While any company can claim that it’s supplying parts for a new iPhone, to the extent that Host is doing so, and has both samples and diagrams to offer as proof, we’re intrigued. As we’ve previously noted in Backstage, we’re still not sure how Apple will pull off the tricky act of downscaling the current iPhone OS to a smaller display, as typing on a 2.8” screen’s keyboard would be one of a few real challenges, but between UI changes and the prospect of a slide-out keyboard, nothing’s impossible for future iPhones. Seeing how it ultimately all plays out will be very interesting.