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Low Power Color Displays Coming Soon

Right now we have two different segments for e-readers, Electronic Paper Displays, and Liquid Crystal Displays. Mainly, we can consider the two powerhouses to be the iPad with LCD and the Kindle with EPD. Personally, I’m anxiously waiting for the combo platter: the low-power color display.

The low-power screen segment has the potential to reach 1.5 billion units in 2014, up from 1 billion units in 2009.

E Ink

The main electronic paper manufacturer for E-readers is E Ink, a manufacturer of electronic paper. Since Semico released its e-reader report, there have been some updates to the market. In July, E Ink announced Pearl, the next generation in E Ink technology. While not the color E Ink screen we all want, it did provide an update with 50% greater contrast ratio than their previous screen. This lead the way for Kindle to announce their own update in August.

E ink works differently than LCDs because it relies on electrical charges to rearrange microcapsules. These microcapsules move depending on where the positive charge is, either rearranging to be on the top of the screen or bottom of the screen. This arrangement is also referred to as “shades of grey.”

E Ink

After moving into place by an electrical current, the microcapsules stay locked into position until the charge changes, which is why EPDs only use electricity when the display is refreshed. This technology allows EPDs to run on one battery charge 30 times longer than an LCD.

Unlike LCDs, EPDs are not backlit to show the pixels and instead mimic paper by reflecting ambient light. Because of this difference, EPDs are easier to read over long periods of time. EPDs are also flexible, which a few E-readers have taken advantage of.

The resolution of EPDs is also better than LCDs, with EPDs supporting up to 400 dpi and LCDs supporting around 100 dpi. The benefits of EPDs are many, however, there was no way to compare the LCD against the EPD so many consumers opted to stick with a smart phone as their reader instead of investing in an E-reader.


Qualcomm’s own technology is called Mirasol, a low-power color display not yet in mass production. Their bistable technology is based on Interferometric MODulation with MEMS. The exciting thing is, they’re scheduled to change that in the first quarter of 2011. Qualcomm is marketing this display to convergent devices, like the iPad, instead of strict e-readers like the Kindle. After they’ve released for that market, they’ll move on to the smart phone market.

Qualcomm isn’t the only one finally coming to market.


Liquavista is targeting e-readers as well as the smart phone market, claiming a low-power color screen, though its manufactured similarly to LCD modules.

It seems low-power color display is right around the corner. 2011 is going to be exciting for the mobile display industry.

-Michell Prunty
Consumer Analyst

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