A new report from the IHS (www.ihs.com) research group says that embedded touch displays, including in-cell and on-cell touch displays, are forecast to have a nearly 40% share of touch module shipments for mobile phone applications this year. In-cell and on-cell touch displays for mobile phones grew 47% year-over-year (Y/Y), which was 36% of shipments in 2014.

Apple and Samsung have more than 40% of the global smartphone market, and the growing use of in-cell and on-cell touch technologies by these two companies is driving the direction of the overall touch sensor market. Japan Display also uses hybrid in-cell touch displays in some tier-one brands from LG, Xiaomi, and Huawei.

“The technical touch sensor evolution is changing the face of touch-panel competition,” says Calvin Hsieh, director for IHS. “Since Apple adopted in-cell touch technology in 2012, and Samsung chose on-cell AMOLED for their premium product line, embedded touch for mobile phone displays has grown rapidly and has become a threat to add-on types.”

According to the report from IHS, in-cell touch displays benefited from the success of Apple iPhone 6, and Japan Display’s successful decision to approach name brands with their Pixel Eyes module helped them attain 51% Y/Y shipment growth in 2014. On-cell TFT LCD successfully entered the entry-level and mid-range smartphone market, growing from nearly five million units in 2013 to 67 million units in 2014. On-cell AMOLED only grew 9% Y/Y, because Samsung’s smartphone growth slowed last year.

Since 2014, panel makers’ embedded touch display solutions have extended coverage into all smartphone segments. Apple’s in-cell displays, Japan Display’s in-cell displays and Samsung’s on-cell AMOLED displays primarily focus on the high-end mobile phone market, while on-cell TFT LCD by single-layer patterning fills the gap for entry-level and mid-range markets.

“Due to fierce market competition, declining average selling prices and panel oversupply, panel makers hope embedded touch displays will sway their name-brand customers with the technology’s advantages, such as simplified structure, thickness and competitive costs,” Hsieh says. “Customer preference for embedded touch displays can increase selling prices and revenues; consequently, nearly all panel makers are aggressively approaching smartphone brands with their own solutions.”

As the technology and yield are mature, embedded touch displays are grabbing market share from add-on types. Although module makers work to continuously improve their solutions, panel makers’ embedded touch displays have negatively affected conventional touch module makers’ business. “

“Module makers will need to develop new applications to survive, and we will see more touch-enabled applications in the future,” Hsieh says.