December 16, 2008

More folding displays for mobile phones

Remember that toy doll (for boys!) that existed a long time ago, called "Little Big Man", well now we seem to be entering into the period of the "Little Big Phone" enabled by folding displays.

At last we will be able to have a decent screen real estate for reading/viewing the types of media that need it, but that can be folded up into a small package for the pocket.

I have commented in a number of previous posts on the READIUS device here (best to search for READIUS if you want to review them) which promises (and has been for a while!!!) to be the first such device to market. It's not a full-on phone, but of a hybrid device with a monochrome E-Ink display and a focus on reading, although that includes reading RSS feeds, news items and not just books.

Recently I commented on a Folding OLED display for mobile phones demo-ed (see video included in that post) by Samsung.

Now, we have another technology announcement on flexible displays from ITRI (Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute) which does quite a lot of research on display technologies, reported by PCWorld and Engadget.

The PCWorld post is the better description, but Engadget post a gallery of images (from ITRI/Pilotfish) for you. Unfortunately neither of them provide much details on the technology itself, or expected availability dates (except Engadget in the title).

It's not a product announcement, and new display technologies seem to resist the transition to market strongly and hence companies struggle to meet expectations after their technology demos and announcements get people existed. ITRI

They show a number of product mock-ups (repeat: mock-ups) of a mobile phones using the display, by design firm Pilotfish.

I suspect the mock-up is just that, and not functional. That's why we don't see video of the image changing, nor the unfolding/folding process.

Sorry to put a damper on all the excitement around the concept design images (which is what they are for, right, to generate excitement) but I think the design mock-up images most probably don't reflect the performance of an EP (ElectroPhoretic) Display in this timeframe.

If they plan to commercialize in 2009, then it will probably be reflective and not as bright as shown. Wthout more details on the display technology itself that's just guessing. Strangely, ITRI's own site doesn't cover this in any Press Release, or News item so it's not easy to find more details. A search of the site doesn't reveal anything on this work either.

The most likely guess for the actual display technology in 2009 would be a monochrome E-Ink display like that planned for the READIUS and the Plastic Logic reader (also covered here recently
at this post), leading to something looking more like this...

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