The next-generation iPhone and iPod Touch will be based on a unique type of OLED display, according to sources, which is far more shatter-resistant than the current “gorilla glass” and LCD design used in the iPhone 4/4S and previous generations.
One of the chief problems with the iPhone and iPod Touch to date has been its easily damaged glass touch screen, and in the case of the iPhone 4/4S, the glass back panel. The iPhone 5 and its corresponding iPod Touch cousin will, according to a report just in from sources familiar with Apple’s 2012 Hardware Roadmap, replace the “square” design of the iPhone 4 and 4S with a solid frame — in some prototypes, this is metal (usually aluminum, though Titanium has been explored due to its superior strength in extremely thin configurations) and in others, a thermoplastic carbon fiber material — and a new type of capacitative touchscreen which incorporates a much tougher, nearly shatterproof outer surface material with an organic LED (OLED) display that is significantly larger than today’s “retina” TFT LCD.
The resolution of this display would remain the same, 960×640, and would still be in the “retina” range (approximately 300DPI) of pixel density but would increase its size to approximately 4 inches. Even larger prototypes were spotted by at least two separate sources earlier this year, with displays as large as 4.65 inches (most closer to 4.5), but little has been heard or seen of such designs since that time; it is believed that some combination of a need for a change in resolution — something Apple has sought to avoid whenever possible — and cost/supply-chain concerns with these larger OLED panels have convinced Infinite Loop to take a more conservative tack.
Whereas previous generation (original iPhone through 3GS) designs would usually suffer severe cracking of the display when dropped on a hard surface from more than 3 feet and iPhone 4/4S units experience either front or rear glass panel shattering at less than 2 feet in some cases depending on the surface and angle of impact, this new design would be nearly identical across the iPhone 5 and iPod Touch 5 — and in Cupertino’s testing thus far, has reportedly had a 0% crack rate when dropped from as high as 12 feet onto a concrete or tile surface. When dropped higher, other damage becomes possible but so far in the testing that has been described to Rumors, it seems to take truly unrealistic amounts of force to cause significant damage (beyond mild scratching) to the new display panel itself.
Similar technology is reportedly in the works for the iPad 3, and may in fact premiere in that device first. That version of the shatterproof OLED display would be the same size as the current iPad, and result in a device of similar shape and thickness, but quadruple resolution to 2048 x 1536.