updated 10:05 am EDT, Thu April 7, 2011
Apple patents hybrid e-paper and LCD display
A US patent discovered Thursday suggested Apple has been developing a possible breakthrough in display technology for future iPads and iPhones. Its "Systems and Methods for Switching Between an Electronic Paper Display and a Video Display" would not only put e-paper and regular display technology in the same screen but would use elements of both on the spot. Different regions could flip over to e-paper for reading, AppleInsider read in its example, but it could also flip some or all of it back for color or video content.
The system would auto-tune the backlighting depending on what choice of display material was active and could even adjust based on automatic criteria rather than by the app or after a command. It could recognize fast-moving content to switch to the regular display but could also go to e-ink if it detected black-and-white or grayscale content.
Its system would work by having a translucent e-paper layer sitting below the touch layer but above the LCD or any other conventional technology. Such layering would let full-color content work below, even if most of the screen was still using e-paper.
Apple first filed for the patent in October 2009 and is only having its application published today. Like most patents, it doesn't guarantee a real shipping product. The use of an iPhone as an example template at least suggested it was considering a tangible application.
The display if it became real would likely be a way to counter criticism from Amazon and from users about the problems of using current Apple mobile devices outside. Although its screens are bright, the need for a backlight and the glossy glass surface can make them hard to use outdoors versus a Kindle or an outdoor-ready computer display like Pixel Qi's 3qi. A switchable, hybrid screen would offer the advantages of both.