Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Kindle, It’s a Phone, Maybe it’s a SmartPhone with Dual Screens!
Stuff’s online magazine, Stuff.tv, and Pocket-Link.com are both reporting that E-Ink, the company responsible for providing the ‘paper’ technology used by e-book devices such as Kindles, has been demonstrating a new form of their technology to be used in smartphones.
The new prototype was exclusively shown to the people from Stuff at the IFA Trade Show in Berlin. The IFA or Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin is one of the oldest industrial exhibitions in Germany. It is also one of world’s leading trade shows for consumer electronics, where exhibitors can present their latest products and developments to the general public.
This new technology would allow dual screens on a smartphone. One side would be your basic smartphone LCD touchscreen featuring phone functions and apps. The flip side would be an e-book reader, utilizing E-Ink’s ultra-low power consuming ‘electronic paper’.
Photo courtesy of The Digital Reader
Dual Screens – What’s the Point?
Having an eBook reading component makes sense on an Amazon Smartphone. It’s a brilliant way for Amazon to combine two of its technologies — Amazon Smartphone and Kindle. Take in account that the battery consumption of the E-Ink display is extremely low and the displays themselves are thin, making them ideal for reading on your phone. Stuff suggested that one of the main benefits to its inclusion on a smartphone would be that important information could be left on screen indefinitely, even when your battery is very low.
E Ink’s prototype has only just been shown to mobile manufacturers but the response was good. One anonymous mobile phone company is working on installing the second screens already.
According to The Digital Reader, Nicolas Charbonnier, AKA Charbax , from ARMdevices.net, was able to meet with the head of marketing of E-Ink at the IFA in Berlin. You can watch Charbax’s interview with Sri Peruvemba, Chief Marketing Officer of E- Ink, as he demonstrates the use of a dual screen smartphone (using mockups) at the IFA in Berlin here. The piece is 31½ minutes long in all – but the section regarding a dual screen smartphone begins right around 15:35.
The video itself showcases all sorts of prototypes from E-Ink, including a flexible screen and their newest prototype a device with a color lighted screen at 10:36.
Switch11’s Note: Lest you get too excited, eInk has been showing color eInk prototypes since 2005 (yes, since 2005).
Is Amazon Planning to Use This Technology in Kindle Phone?
Amazon has been considering dual screens for quite some time. After some searching at the US Patent and Trademark Office online, I found that Amazon filed a patent application on February 25, 2011.
An electronic device including two or more display elements can provide enhanced functionality with improved rates of power consumption. A user can cause information that does not change rapidly to be provided or moved to a relatively static display element, such as an electronic ink display, which enables that information to be displayed for a period of time with little additional power consumption. Similarly, content (e.g., video) that changes rapidly can be displayed on a relatively dynamic display element, such as and LCD or OLED display. Each display can be touch sensitive, such that a user can move content between the displays by pressing on, or making a motion in contact with, at least one of the displays. Various modes can be activated which cause certain types of content to be displayed on the dynamic and/or static display element.
The electronic device that is frequently referred to throughout the patent in Amazon’s words:
…the electronic device is one of a tablet computer, a smart phone, a personal computer, a personal data assistant, and a portable gaming device. – (Bold type added)
What I found interesting in the image documents that accompany the patent application, are the methods Amazon plans to use to operate the opposite display. One method describes the simple exertion of a minimum amount of pressure or at least a minimum duration – of an item displayed on one of the screens to “push” that item to through to the other side where the item will now be displayed. The other method describes the user “dragging” an item off the current screen, around the edge of the device, and “dropping” the item on the other display screen.
So What Do we Know?
Well, we’ve learned a lot. We learned that E-Ink has some nifty cool technology with the development of the dual screens. We learned that Amazon has been working on developing a patent for items that would use dual screens: e-readers, tablet computers, smartphones, PDAs, Video gaming consoles, portable media players…etc. We also learned why dual screens would be an admirable addition to a smartphone that Amazon may or not be developing.
There’s just one problem – with as much much as we’ve learned, we still don’t know, when-how-why or if any of this new technology will see the light of day on any of Amazon’s devices. Looks like we will just have to wait until September 6th for Amazon’s big press conference in Santa Monica to see what’s new.