E-ink screen enters the color era, will it replace our screen?

PalmReader recently released the world's first iReader C6 reader with color ink screen. Although it can only display 4096 colors, this represents the "electronic paper" officially saying goodbye to the black and white era.

Compared to whether the price of this product is worth 1499 yuan (USD $214) , I think another issue is more worthy of discussion: Will the electronic ink screen become our next "screen" in the near future?

Electronic ink screen ≠ electronic paper

First of all, we must determine a concept. Although e-ink sounds inextricably linked to paper, most of the products we have come across using this technology are also electronic readers (generally referred to as "e-books" or "e-paper").

The use of electronic ink screens is far more than most of us can imagine. Not only can they be seen on price tags in supermarkets, but some smart phones have already used such screens.

In 2013, the first generation of Yota Phone was launched, and many people care more about its screen than the configuration of this phone. Yota Phone uses a 4.3-inch IPS screen on the front, and an electronic ink screen of the same size on the back. The material is E-ink, 200ppi, which can be used to display messages such as maps and emails.

While remembering that the 4.3-inch was still a large-screen mobile phone at the time, this e-ink screen allowed Yota Phone to achieve a longer standby time with only a 2000mAh battery. After entering the era of large-screen touch, the screen has become the main force of smart phone power consumption.

In 2018, Kyocera launched a mobile phone KY-01L with only a 2.8-inch e-ink screen. Although after removing features such as the camera and the app store, this phone has completely left the category of smart phones. But because the standby time is long enough and the fuselage is very light, it is still very good as a backup machine.

So, can the electronic ink screen be used as the main screen of a smart phone?

Problems with e-ink screens

First answer the question above: No, or not for most people.

Compared with the current common LCD or OLED, their refresh speed is slower, and it is even slower when fully refreshed. In order to solve this problem, we can only start with the imaging principle of the electronic ink screen.

Take the black-and-white electronic ink screen as an example, there are many small "microcapsules" attached to the surface, which contain a large number of black capsules with negative points and white capsules with positive electricity. The panel can arrange the different particles in an orderly manner by changing the charge on the surface, thereby presenting a grayscale effect from black to white.

The above imaging principle makes the electronic ink screen update speed much slower than other screens, which makes it impossible to display video and games and other content, and it is not possible to display in real-time during the photographing process.

Beginning this year, the mobile phone market has gradually begun to pursue high-refresh rate screens, which has set higher requirements for screen refresh rates. Although the performance of the electronic ink screen has improved to some extent in the development of many years, it is also far below the level of other screens.

As mentioned earlier, the color ink screen used by iReader C6 supports 4096 colors. The recently launched OPPO Find X2 series uses a 10-bit screen that can output more than 1 billion colors, and most screens can also output 16.77 million colors.

Supporting fewer colors means that some colors cannot be displayed properly, and color tomography is prone to occur when watching videos and pictures.

△ 8bit and 10bit contrast

When watching text or comics, 4096 colors can be used to optimize the system to fully meet the needs of displaying content. But it is far from meeting current video and gaming needs.

It ’s also good as a “attach screen”

Due to the above shortcomings, the current electronic ink screen cannot stand on its own and exists as the elder brother. But it also has many advantages and uses of its own.

Its power consumption is very low, and in theory only consumes power when switching display content.

With this feature, a company called Waveshare recently launched an electronic ink screen product without a battery. This 7.5-inch screen has a resolution of 800×480 and relies entirely on NFC to obtain data and power. It does not need a battery and it does not need to be connected to a power source.

We can also be inspired by this product. The use of electronic ink screens for message boards, alarm clocks or NFC tags can not only serve as a reminder, but also DIY when necessary.

Compared with stickers, the electronic ink screen can freely modify the information, and the color support will make it even more powerful, and in theory will not affect the standby performance of the product. If it can eliminate the color difference with the body, then it will be very suitable for mobile phone attached screen or notebook touch screen.

So, since I can't be a big brother for the time being, it's actually a good supporting role.