One of the biggest bugbears that consumers have with smartphones is the screen size. What is the point of being able to download content off the Internet if you need a magnifying glass to read it, or have to spend the entire time scrolling, resizing and scrolling again?
Even the largest smartphone screens struggle to give consumers the flexibility they want when mobile browsing, and the compromise between the user experience and the size of the screen is the one weak spot in the smartphone’s armour.
Things could be about to change, however, thanks to the advent of advanced e-paper technology designed and brought to market by innovators Plastic Logic. The company has a formidable reputation for its research and development, and they have been known to solve the odd problem or two with some very nifty thinking. Their solution to the smartphone screen issue is as ingenious as it is (supposedly) simple – a flexible companion device that gives you a 10.7” superlight touchscreen; more than twice the size of the Galaxy Note screen, for example.
Not another app?
This time we’re talking hardware that pairs up with a smartphone using wireless technology, a battery and…well, okay yes, there’s an app, but that’s only to make sure the screen is compatible with the device! The app exchanges data between the screen and the smartphone, enabling you to view web pages in their entirety without endless scrolling, or to read an entire email in one go.
And don’t worry about battery life for this smart bolt on, either. Because the display only needs the battery on power-up or when it changes the on-screen image, there is very little impact on the lifespan of each charge (and you’ll probably find that your smartphone battery dies long before the flexiscreen does).
Is it actually flexible?
Plastic Logic have built their reputation developing truly flexible organic electronics, but in this instance the term ‘flexible’ may be a little bit of a misnomer. You won’t be able to bend it or twist it, and in fact market research has shown that customers do actually want something that is a little bit more ‘rugged’ and designed to cope with the knocks and bumps of a busy urban workscape. Final probabilities will be that the e-paper screen will be ultra-slim (as most plastic transistor displays are) and ultra-light, but set in a frame that can be dropped into a bag and carried around as part of your mobile office set-up.
Just a gimmick, or is there a purpose behind it?
Smartphones were, when they originally burst onto the scene, dismissed as ‘gimmicky’. After all, a mobile phone is just that – a phone that’s mobile. Nobody would need to browse the ‘net on the go, would they? But in the space of a couple of years smartphones have come to dominate our digital lives, and it was inevitable that add-ons (and not just apps) would start to appear.
However, the Plastic Logic concept isn’t just another gimmick, and it has real practical applications, particularly for the visually impaired user or for those who rely on their smartphone as part of their business hardware. Although currently only available as a monochrome add-on, it won’t be long before we’re looking at full colour, ultra-lightweight screens that can turn our smartphones into even smarter phones!