Here’s why Apple should put a color E Ink display on the iPhone 14

Isn’t it like Apple to wait for emerging technology until it becomes good enough to meet its exacting standards? The company is, according to a new report from an avid Apple analyst at TF International Securities Ming Chi Kuofinally testing flexible color E Ink displays for future foldable devices.

We’ll assume these devices are future foldable iPhones and future foldable iPads. But why wait? Who wouldn’t love a secondary screen on the back of the iPhone 14, which we think will arrive in September or October of this year.

Before we dive into that, let’s take another look at the Kuo rumor, which we also covered here.

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Color e-ink displays, which operate on reflective light, as opposed to backlighting, are not new. Companies like Qualcomm have been displaying them for over a decade. But only recently have they reached color, refresh and battery life standards that could make them a viable alternative to the flexible OLED screens favored by most foldable device makers.

Yes, they make perfect sense for the exterior of some flexi-iPhone or iPad, but they could be a game-changer on the iPhone 14 (or iPhone 15) as well.

I understand how carefully Apple protects its design intellectual property; this iconic Apple logo has remained at the center of virtually every iPhone since the 2007 “Jesus” device. Nothing can come between Apple, the iPhone and this logo.

And it’s good.

But if you have an iPhone, take a look at the back. There are two solid inches (or more if you have an iPhone 13 Pro Max) between the base of the logo and the bottom edge of the iPhone.

A color E Ink display would fit right in there – and if you think that’s a bit fancy, it’s been done before, and on a larger scale.

Normally, a second screen, even OLED, can eat up too much battery life (yes, I know Samsung’s Z Flip 3 also has a small secondary super-AMOLED display on the back). However, there are a number of reasons why the new E Ink color display could work just fine on the iPhone 14.

A different screen

First of all, it’s reflective technology, which means you can see everything at a glance, without even waking the phone. I often keep my iPhone face down on the table next to me, and many people do the same. With that second screen, you can peek and see a notification, or even – because it’s in color – an image someone just shared with you.

Second, color E Ink is more energy efficient than LCD and even OLED. Instead of constantly refreshing to hold an image on the screen, it can display it, and the E Ink will hold it until you touch the screen and open a different view. Plus, E Ink’s new screen works in both color and black and white. In theory, an iPhone 14 owner could choose to run the external display in B&W mode to save even more power.

There would be obvious limitations. E Ink still hits 300 ppi, while the current iPhone 13 Super XDR Retina screen clocks in at 460 ppi. And its refresh rates are abysmal compared to OLED and LCD. This will work for messages, stills, and alerts, but forget about videos and games.

There’s no indication that Apple is testing color E Ink in a bid to bring a secondary display to the iPhone 14 – but wouldn’t it be amazing if they did?

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