Most smartphones and tablets have full color touchscreen displays, while most eBook readers feature high contrast, low power E Ink displays. But in the future the two may not be mutually exclusive.
E Ink is showing off a smartphone design with a full color screen on one side, and an E Ink paper-like display on the back. Stuff got a peek at a prototype.
The idea is that you’ll be able to use the primary display for actions where color or high frame rates are important, such as gaming, watching videos, or generally interacting with the phone’s user interface.
But if you want to read a book, a magazine article, or other long-form content, you can switch off the primary display and switch to E Ink.
That should make a huge difference for battery life. The screen sucks more power than pretty much any other component on most modern smartphones. But E Ink screens only use power when the picture changes. So as long as you’re looking at a static image, there’s no power consumed at all.
That’s why E Ink eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle and B&N NOOK can run for 30 hours continuously with relatively small batteries.
E Ink screens are also easier to see in direct sunlight, since they’re designed to be viewed using ambient light.
Stuff reports that at least one phone company is working on a device using the new screens.