Apple Products Spur Growth in Force Sensing Display Technology

In 2016, force sensing module shipments are expected to grow 317 percent to reach 461 million units, according to an IHS report.

ihs and force touch

Apple's use of Force Touch technology in the Apple Watch and 3D Touch in the iPhone 6s line is leading to growth in force sensing and other touch-panel enhancements in mobile devices, according to an IHS report.

Other brands and integrated-circuit (IC) makers are now responding by preparing their own force sensing solutions, mainly for high-end and midrange smartphones due to the high cost.

In 2016, force sensing module shipments are expected to grow 317 percent to reach 461 million units. Nearly one quarter (24 percent) of new smartphones shipped will include the technology, according to the report.

The feature's success depends on how app developers make use of the Force (3D) Touch feature, IHS analyst Calvin Hsieh told eWEEK.

For example, he noted that most of Apple's built-in apps use it as contextual menu, such as a mouse's right button function, but a painting app can use it for stroke or line width.

The developers of this technology now have to persuade most app developers to create two versions of apps—with and without Force Touch—and guide end users to make use of Force Touch to enhance touch-screen UX, Hsieh explained.

"End users need to be convinced to change their behaviors with advantage. Otherwise, people prefer what they think the easiest," he said. "It is the same with the MacBook. The old MacBook Air can use double click or right button to have the same function of Force Touch. Thus, Force Touch becomes a nice-to-have instead of a must-have feature."

The report also noted that the ongoing evolution in the touch-panel industry is changing the supply chain and affecting competition.

Touch controller IC makers, primarily in Taiwan and China, accounted for more than 45 percent of the market for major information technology and consumer electronics products in the first half of 2015.

"A non-Apple force sensing solution has been almost ready in the end of Q4. We heard Samsung had the plan, but they just canceled it for the S7 this month," Hsieh said. "It is because they prefer waiting for lower sensor cost. Anyway, we will still see some high-end and even midrange models adopt force sensing tech in 2016."

He also noted that the cost of sensor technology is going to limit this feature to smaller screen devices in the near future, although it could pop up on some higher-end tablets soon.