E-ink vs LCD: Can color e-paper still be a game changer?

Pierre Wattre


Since Amazon launched Kindle in 2007, the mass market discovered the potential of e-paper: low power consumption display, perfect for reading but only available in monochrome due to technological limitations.

Indeed, e-ink technology works by using microcapsules that are suspended in liquid placed within a film-like layer. The microcapsules, which are about the same width as human hair, contain both positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles.

See how it works below:–AzM7U

Why does E-ink uses so little power when compared to LCD?

E-ink technology is “bistable”. It means that as soon as the screen displays an image, it will retain it even without any power. E-ink displays only use power when the image is changing.

With LCD technology, the display needs to be refreshed around 30 times per second, regardless of whether you just look at the screen or frantically scroll up and down a page.

This is why you charge your phone/tablet every night and your e-Reader every month, even if you use it everyday.

Will E-ink technology be available in color?

The excitement around e-paper was huge in 2008-2010. However, delays in making the technology available for the mass market made consumers choose LCD displays, despite disadvantages in power consumption and visibility in direct sunlight. With tablet market growing exponentially since the launch of the iPad, the color e-reader technology was seen as too expensive and restrictive when compared to devices using LCD.

Despite these criticisms, some companies continue to work at developing color e-paper technology. Qualcomm, with its Mirasol technology, is rumored to be ready for the market in just a few years. It is not yet clear whether Qualcomm will focus this technology to the phone/tablet market or to smaller devices such as watches for example.

Amazon also, by purchasing Liquavista in March 2013, is clearly interested in working on e-paper technology for its Kindle. Amazon has kept these intentions very private as projected success in this arena could very well be a game changer for the industry.

Until these frontrunners succeed in launching a product for the masses, I have honed in on my own personal favorite, a mix of LCD and e-ink technology, called the Yota Phone: LCD screen on one side, e-ink display on the other.

The Benefits of Yota?

  • The electronic paper display is always on but in a less disturbing and more user-friendly way; it provides a long lasting, more comfortable reading experience even in bright sunshine.
  • The electronic paper display does not have to go dark to save battery life; even if the battery is empty, the most recent information on the EPD remains visible.
  • When you flip the phone, footnotes on the page you are reading will automatically appear on the LCD.
  • Displays all vital notifications of your choice on-screen for as long as you need them or until you are ready to respond to them.  

 Have a look yourself:

This is just the beginning for the future of e-ink technology; with many more parties intrigued, it will be interesting to see what may come from the potential of e-paper.