apple-watch

A new Bloomberg report indicates that Sony might be preparing to produce a smartwatch that uses an e-paper display rather than a traditional LCD display. Not only will the display be made of e-paper, the report continues, but the entire wrist band as well. Could such a device take on Apple’s own smartwatch, set for release early next year?

E-paper, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the same low-power “electronic paper” display used in devices like the Kindle. It allows a display to be legible, even in direct sunlight, by reflecting light rather than emitting it like a standard LCD display.

Bloomberg says that by building the entire watch from e-paper, Sony will enable users to change the look of the device on a whim without switching out physical faces or bands, as would be required with a device like the Apple Watch—although to a much lesser degree than Apple Watch users will enjoy.

The decision to use e-paper stems from a desire to focus on style and customizability rather than functionality. Though this will put Sony’s watch in a much different category than Apple’s entry, the choice to take some of the focus off of the watch’s functionality makes sense given the technical limitations of e-paper technology.

For example, though color e-paper displays have existed for several years now, the technology is expensive—so expensive that Samsung decided to give up on it—and the existing models are unreliable and low-quality. As a result, there are currently no consumer-ready full-color panels.

E-paper displays also suffer from much lower refresh rates, making them ideal for books, but less so for high-tech tablets or other devices that need to display rapidly changing information or interfaces. For an Apple Watch, e-paper would be a poor fit. However, if Sony does plan to focus more on form than function, it may not need to worry about the problems it would face putting a full mobile OS on the watch.

One watch that has successfully navigated these obstacles to provide a solid user experience is the popular Pebble smartwatch, which has support for a variety of third-party apps and functions. The limitations on its display, however, ensure that the Pebble, like any other e-paper-based watch, will likely never achieve the same level of software design that Apple or Google’s Android Wear have reached.

The Sony project is part of a new initiative within the company to reward seed money to employees with innovative ideas and help bring their designs to market.

According to Bloomberg’s report, Sony is working toward a possible release in 2015.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.


Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Mike Beasley's favorite gear