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WSJ: iPhone future includes thinner screen, other details cloudy

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Today's Wall Street Journal includes an interesting story about a screen technology that may make an appearance in the next iPhone.

Based on sources in the supply chain and "people familiar with the matter," the WSJ says that LCD panel makers Sharp and LG, plus a new Japanese consortium called Display Inc., are all busy manufacturing screens for the next iPhone that feature "in-cell technology" to support touch sensitivity. Companies that have traditionally supplied the touch panels, like Taiwan's Wintek, are supposedly out in the cold with next-gen orders.

The key advantage of in-cell, which integrates the touch sensors directly into the LCD panel (hence the name -- contrast "on-cell," the separate touch layer used in current iPhones) is that it removes a bit of thickness. Screens made this way are about one-half millimeter thinner than their on-cell counterparts, which may not sound like that much; however, the iPhone 4S is only 9.3 mm thick in total. Every little bit counts.

When this rumor first floated in April of this year, MacRumors noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's thickness count; the screen itself could be 15% thinner with the new approach, and the phone overall could be made thinner still (or reserve room for a bulkier, LTE-friendly battery).

The new screens are said to be "challenging" to manufacture for the suppliers, which can only mean one thing: more frequent flier miles for Tim Cook and his operations team.

The WSJ's Digits blog also posted a companion story today with the slightly unfortunate original headline "Apple's Upcoming iPhone 5: What We Know." I say "unfortunate" because it was subsequently changed to omit the "5" -- although you can still see the original slug in your browser title bar -- since among the post's list of things known/unknown about this device is whether or not it will actually be called the iPhone 5.

Aside from the link to the screen technology story, the list summarizes to "We fully expect that at some point between now and the end of 2012 there will, in fact, be a new iPhone model running iOS 6. Said iPhone will be popular."

It's a cruel summer.

Photo by Rob Marquardt | @someToast

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