Polymer Vision aims high for foldaway-display phone

The first consumer electronics product to have a display that folds away when not in use is likely to cost about the same as a high-end mobile phone when it debuts in the middle of the year.

Incorporating a 3G mobile phone, Polymer Vision’s Readius will use the company’s electronic-paper technology to provide a screen that is more than twice the width of a standard mobile phone but which wraps around the handset when not in use.

Polymer Vision’s chief technology officer Edzer Huitema demonstrated the device at the Printed Electronics Europe conference in Dresden this week following his keynote speech. He said the company is working with a partner to incorporate the phone module so that the device can download information using 3G or USB.

“We are finalising production of the displays and the device itself,” said Huitema. Polymer Vision expects to be able to start shipping the device to customers in the middle of the year.

Initially, the company will build the Readius devices itself subcontracting the assembly of the phone module and display to a contract electronics manufacturer. “Initially, we need to be vertically integrated to demonstrate what this technology can do,” said Huitema, but noted that it is likely that the company will sell the displays to other consumer-electronics makers. Polymer Vision will also investigate vertical markets once it has built up experience of how users deal with the Readius.

Like other displays based on electrophoretic technology, the Readius screen is monochrome. “We want to go to colour,” said Huitema. “The electrophoretic industry is working on this.” He added that the first colour devices, when they arrive, will not offer full colour support but will improve the look of the display. It will also take time for this class of device to show video: the current response rate of the display is 2Hz, Huitema said.

“The aim is to have a larger screen size, touchscreens and video. With that you can make the ultimate compact device,” Huitema claimed. “We see this as the next wave of disruption.”

The company has tested the foldaway device to 50,000 fold and unfold cycles, Huitema claimed, adding that this type of display needs to be thin. “This is 100µm thick: would have difficulty doing this with a 300µm thick display.”

Image: Polymer Vision demonstrated the Readius at Printed Electronics Europe

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