MAY 17, 2022
An iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. – NYC Russ/Shutterstock
Rumors that Apple is working on a foldable device have been swirling for a while now, but it appears that the company wants to take a rather odd route for making gadgets with flexible screens. According to TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is “testing E Ink’s Electronic Paper Display (EPD) for future foldable device’s cover screen & tablet-like applications.” It looks like Apple wants to take a leaf out of Kindle e-readers instead of adopting the industry norm for foldables that favor OLED and LCD tech.
The idea is not unique, but the implications are huge. Take, for example, the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2, a laptop that has a full-fledged 12-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels monochrome display that can be used for sketching, jotting down notes, and checking notifications, among other tasks. It even allows users to engage with Microsoft Office apps, killing the need for opening the laptop’s lid.
But the e-ink tech is not limited to a black and white canvas anymore. E Ink, the company behind the EPD digital paper technology, has already introduced the Gallery 3 Color ePaper platform that blends cyan, magenta, yellow, and white shades to produce the full-color gamut in a display with a pixel density of 300 PPI. For comparison, the fifth-generation iPad Air’s screen offers a pixel density of 264 PPI.
Different Take, Promising Results
The point here is that the E Ink’s EPD, or digital color paper tech in general, is fundamentally ready to offer a paper-like screen experience, and products like the ONYX BOOX Nova 3 and Nova Air C are already making the best out of it. Apple just might be the next name to embrace it, but in a rather eyeball-grabbing fashion with foldables. This could be a smart move for Apple, as an e-ink display could provide a lot of utility and longer battery life. Foldable screens, aside from being fragile and expensive, also consume battery power faster than devices with smaller display panels.
Take the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, which comes equipped with a 4,400 mAh battery but still struggles to last a full day driving that tall cover display and the inner foldable panel, especially if the latter is used heavily. Apple just might skip that fate by relying on an E Ink paper-like color screen that draws significantly less power compared to an OLED or LCD panel but still lets users perform basic-to-moderately advanced tasks without draining the battery so quickly.
Earlier this year, Kuo tweeted that Apple was testing a 9-inch foldable OLED display that was headed towards an iPhone/iPad hybrid device. Still, don’t hold your breath for an Apple-branded foldable hitting the shelves anytime soon, as Kuo notes that Apple’s first foldable likely won’t hit the shelves before 2025.