Apple’s foldable iPhone could borrow screen tech from Kindles

We’ve been waiting for the iPhone Flip for years and will probably wait a few more years, but when it does arrive it could be quite different from any current foldable phone.

This is because, according to Ming Chi Kuo – an analyst with a good Apple information background – the phone may have an E Ink cover screen.

Apple is apparently testing E Ink’s Electronic Paper Display (EPD) for use on a foldable phone’s secondary display – though it’s worth noting that while Kuo is correct, the fact that Apple is testing something does not mean that the business will necessarily end up using it.

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Still, such a display might make sense. This EPD technology is very similar to the screen of a Kindle, in that it’s designed to replicate the look of paper and to be incredibly low power, so the cover screen can be always on without draining lots of battery.

And this particular technology goes beyond what any Kindle from Amazon currently offers, as it is also a color screen.

Kuo goes on to suggest that this technology could, for the reasons above, be widely used for secondary displays on foldable phones, so it might not just be Apple using it. We could certainly imagine other companies copying the idea if Apple’s foldable successfully uses this technology.

Interestingly, Kuo also says that Apple is testing an EPD with “tablet-like apps.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but it could also be that Apple is working on some sort of e-reader or graphics tablet.


Analysis: advantages and disadvantages of an EPD

While an EPD has obvious advantages, including its ease of using a device’s battery, it also has disadvantages.

If you’ve ever used an eReader, you’ll know that it tends to have extremely low refresh rates, which makes it slow to do much. In some cases, the refresh rate can be increased, but this often leads to ghosting. They are then ideal for reading books, but less so for things that require constant and fast inputs, or for animations and videos.

This means that an EPD cover screen probably wouldn’t work very well as a full smartphone interface, like the cover screen on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. But it could be ideal as a less interactive screen, more designed to show notifications. and time, much like the small cover screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3.

So if Apple uses an EPD on the iPhone Flip, it will likely look more like the Z Flip 3’s secondary display than the Z Fold 3’s. These limitations also mean that even if other phone makers are starting to do the same, there will always be a market for conventional secondary screens.

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