Apple has secured a patent for an in-cell panel, which adds touch sensors to the LCD so an extra touch-screen layer is unnecessary.
The patent covers a "touch screen liquid crystal display." Those touch screens "integrate the touch sensing elements with the display circuitry," according to the patent description.
It was filed in June 2007, the same year the iPhone made its debut, but only granted this week.
As noted by AppleInsider, the current iPhone 4S uses "on cell" technology, or a layer of touch-sensitive glass between some Gorilla glass and the phone's top glass. Merging those layers into one could shrink the screen size by half a millimeter. The displays, however, are hard to produce, which could pose a problem for Apple. The tech giant will likely need to produce tens of millions of new iPhones to satisfy the masses.
Reports about in-cell technology in the next iPhone first cropped up in April. Then last month, the Wall Street Journal said Apple was prepping a new smartphone with a thinner screen that boosts image quality, thanks to in-cell tech.
Sharp, Japan Display, and LG Display are all currently mass producing the screens for inclusion in the next iPhone, the Journal said.
The current iPhone 4S is 9.3mm or 0.37in thick, according to Apple's website.
The most recent iPhone rumors suggest that Apple will unveil the iPhone 5, or whatever it opts to call the new smartphone, on 12 September, at which point pre-orders will begin. The smartphone will be released on 21 September in several markets, with a larger international rollout starting in early October, according to iMore.