Jul 14 2013, 1:33pm CDT | by Deidre Richardson
Have you ever touched your iPhone and iPad screen and thought about the innovation you experience daily? Most Apple customers do not. We are so programmed to accept that touch screens are an indelible part of our human existence that we often forget how innovative the touch screen was when Apple produced the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2009.
Prior to Apple, even, there were groups such as Knight Ridder in the 1990s that contemplated the digital page on which we would read newspapers and magazines such as Time. Apple’s touch screen products were innovative indeed, but the seeds of those ideas started approximately 20 years before Apple became famous for them.
Yes, the touch screen is an amazing achievement of our time, when reality and fantasy merge in real time. How does Apple achieve this when producing its iPhones and iPads?
Apple is able to accomplish the touch screen experience by using a substance known as ITO, or indium tin oxide, a coating that covers the iDevice display so that, when you touch it, the device responds to your contact and performs actions based on the area of the screen that you touch. Indium tin oxide has made the magical experience of the iPad, for example, one where children can learn and families can bond.
The magical ingredient, however, is soon to become extinct. That’s the official word from the federal government regarding the current state of ITO.
Studies of the touch-sensitive coating from 2010 to 2011 reveal that the price of ITO has gone up 25 percent within the last three years, but ITO supplies have dwindled due to manufacturer demand for the coating to produce touch screen laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Keep in mind that Apple’s iPod Touch line has become one of the most unique product lines in history, considering that most manufacturers have abandoned the MP3 movement. Apple took that which was old and made it new again.
The state of ITO has prompted industry leaders to look for a viable alternative. Having gathered at the San Francisco Semicon West conference earlier this year, leaders reported on sources that could serve as powerful alternatives to ITO. Among these new alternatives are graphene and Silver Nano wires. Samsung is experimenting with the use of graphene in its displays, and Foxconn intends to use silver carbon nanotubes in its non-Apple devices as early as next year.
With that said, I don’t think the touch screen industry is coming to an end, nor do I think that the iPhone’s future is at stake. The iPhone is a billion-dollar industry for Apple, and the iPhone is one of Apple’s best-selling iProducts.
As a result, you need not worry that there will be no iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, or iPhone 7 to look forward to. At the same time, this report does teach us that the natural resources that we encounter in technology every day are precious and are not unlimited (to the surprise of some). We here at Apple Balla will keep you updated on breaking trends in this story.
Deidre Richardson is a long-time Apple fan and reports passionate about the latest Apple news and rumors.
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