Apple reportedly testing color e-ink display technology to use as a second screen for a foldable device

foldable iPhone

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is exploring the use of color paper displays by E Ink for its future products. Kuo says that this manufacturer’s technology is particularly well suited to enabling a low-power second screen experience for a foldable form factor device.

Of course, Apple does not currently make a foldable although there have been ongoing rumors that the company is considering designs for a foldable iPad.

Back in February, both display analyst Ross Young and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman referenced a 20-inch folding MacBook/iPad design apparently in development.

What Kuo seems to be suggesting is that the e-paper panel would serve as the outward-facing display, providing a low-power accessory screen experience for users, who want to get some utility out of their foldable without having to unfold it.

The choice of e-ink would be an interesting deviation from the direction of the Android foldable market.

For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold features a 6.2-inch AMOLED cover display, which makes the device look almost like a standard phone in closed operation. The user can unfold the device to reveal the flexible 7.6-inch main screen inside. An e-ink display would not be appropriate for this design.

The Galaxy Z Flip’s outer second screen

However, the Galaxy Z Flip features a very small 1.9-inch OLED cover screen, which acts as a simple readout for the time and notifications display. This could easily be imagined as a color e-ink surface though, extending battery life significantly as e-ink do not consume power for static content. The significantly lower refresh rate of e-ink panels, compared to OLED or LCD, does not matter too much in this context either.

This use case is closer to what Kuo describes; e-ink / e-paper could become the mainstream choice for these outer accessory displays. Of course, Apple’s plans could change it any time and it tests many different technologies continuously. At this point, anything beyond the idea that they are exploring the potential for the the technology would be mere speculation.

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Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.

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