Cover-glass shipments increased 44 percent in 2012, with more than three-quarters of that growth coming from mobile phones. The growth of touch-enabled mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, is projected to drive worldwide cover-glass shipments to more than 1.5 billion in 2013 and more than 2.5 billion by 2017, according to the "Touch Panel Cover Glass Report" from research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
Mobile phone cover-glass shipments accounted for 84 percent of total shipments in 2012. However, with increasing global smartphone penetration, growth is expected to slow to 21 percent year-over-year in 2014. Despite the slowdown, the NPD report said continued demand for smartphones would make the devices the dominant driver for cover glass, with shipments forecast to reach more than 2 billion by 2017.
"Mobile phones and tablet PCs are the two largest applications requiring touch-screen capabilities and are the most critical applications to the cover-glass market," Calvin Hsieh, NPD DisplaySearch, research director said in a statement. "One of the main market drivers is projected capacitive touch. Cover glass is not necessarily a functional component for projected capacitive touch, unless it uses the one-glass solution (OGS), but almost every brand has designed products with cover glass since Apple started the trend."
Demand for tablet devices like the Apple iPad and Google Android-based tablets will drive the cover-glass tablet market to 200 million in 2013 and nearly double that by 2017, and the devices are expected to account for 14 percent of cover-glass shipments in 2014. Because of their larger screen size, the report noted tablets would have an even higher impact on the shipment area and revenue for cover glass.
One area where the report predicted growth would be slower is in the notebook PC market, where cover glass has not been adopted as rapidly. The report noted growth would depend in part on whether consumers warm to Microsoft's recently released Windows 8 operating system, which has a touch-friendly interface. The report estimated cover-glass shipments for notebook PCs in 2013 are expected to reach 42 million and grow to almost 124 million by 2017.
"We expect touch, and thus cover glass, penetration in the notebook market to be about 12 percent in 2013, with the one-glass solution (OGS) being the most widely adopted," Hsieh continued. "Penetration is limited by high touch module costs, although some models like the Mac Book Pro use cover glass for design reasons. If lower-cost solutions such as OGS were to be widely adopted, then penetration could be significantly higher."
The report comes a day after Corning Glass Technologies president James Clappin told Bloomberg News that growth in tablet, smartphone and touch-screen computer sales could boost profits for Corning's scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass.
"We sell a lot of Gorilla Glass in cell phones, but a notebook is 10 times the size, 10 times the area," he told the news organization. "Glass makers sell in square feet. We like area—the bigger the area, the better."