Touch Technology Market Outlook

Randy Lawson Principal Analyst at IHS presented his findings on the technology and market outlook for touch sensors and touch enabled devices at the event. Lawson opened his presentation with the data below, which illustrates how the end-use market expansion for touch enabled devices including handsets, tablets and mobile PCs is driving the sales of touch technology.

IHS forecasts that in 2018, the overall global market for handsets, tablets and mobile PCs will reach a total of nearly three billion units. Although not every mobile PC is likely to ship with a touch screen display, the forecast clearly suggests that more than 2.5 billion touch screen devices will ship in 2018. That’s a lot of touch sensors and displays. As the IHS forecast also shows, the total market revenue for handsets, tablets and mobile PCs will exceed $400 Billion. The penetration of touch sensors in many major consumer electronic product categories is also forecast to grow as illustrated below.

While penetration of touch is currently 100% in categories of devices such as tablet PCs, there is considerable headroom for increasing penetration of touch user interfaces in all-in-one PCs, automotive, LCD monitor, mobile phone and notebook PC applications. The IHS presenter also made the point that small and medium OLED and LCD displays are proliferating in many product categories beyond just handsets and tablets, including white goods, automotive, wearable, security and climate control and in ultra mobile PCs. Based on these end-use market forecasts, IHS forecasts a growing market for touch panels as illustrated below.

IHS forecasts that touch panel demand will reach nearly 2.5 billion units in 2017. Lawson also pointed out that projected capacitance touch sensors, as compared to all other touch sensing technologies, represents over 90% of the total touch technology market. He also discussed the growth outlook for projected capacitance touch sensors based on different layer types as illustrated below, noting that, “Film type and integrated type (sensors) are expanding their share”.

Lawson also touched on the topic of touch controller IC integration trends. The advantages of transitioning to a single IC die that comprises both the touch controller and display driver include a single flex circuit to the display module, a thinner display, simpler construction and a more efficient supply chain. Industry moves toward Touch and Display Driver Integration (TDDI) have been signalled by the recent tie-ups of Synaptics plus Renesas and Focaltech plus Orise Technology.

To conclude his presentation, Lawson cited several current and prospective touch industry trends. Oversupply, competition and restructuring are driving rapid price drops for touch modules and he expects this trend to intensify in 2015. He also sees and expects a continuing trend to single-sensor layer touch panels. As we have noted previously, he also sees a continuation of the trend for LCD makers to bring touch directly into the display so as to capture the touch module value for the display maker, though he is uncertain about whether this is a lasting and growing trend. – Phil Wright