Apple is reportedly testing using an E Ink color display as an external display for an unannounced foldable device noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo† “The color EPD [Electronic Paper Display] has the potential to become a mainstream solution for the indispensable cover/second screen of foldable devices thanks to its excellent energy savings,” the analyst wrote in a tweet. He adds that the E Ink display is also being tested in “tablet-like applications.”
Most of the foldable tablet-style tablets on the market today combine a large foldable inner display with a smaller outer display for quickly checking notifications. But existing devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 or the Oppo Find N use OLED panels for both. Apple’s use of an E Ink display would almost certainly make for a less responsive exterior display with fewer colors, but, as Kuo points out, it could be much more energy efficient.
Apple is testing E Ink’s Electronic Paper Display (EPD) for the cover screen of future foldable devices and tablet-like applications. The color EPD has the potential to become a mainstream solution for the indispensable cover/second screen of foldable devices thanks to its excellent energy savings.
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) May 17, 2022
While E Ink is best known for its monochrome screens that Amazon uses in its Kindles, the company also has a range of color screens. It recently announced E Ink Gallery 3, a new version of its color E Ink technology capable of producing more colors at a higher resolution. It can also refresh much faster than the company’s previous color displays, although it’s still nowhere near as responsive as an equivalent OLED or LCD. Promotional videos released by E Ink show how the display can be folded or rolled up.
There are persistent rumors that Apple is planning to release a foldable device along with Samsung and Huawei. In 2021, reports emerged that Apple was prototyping foldable displays internally, and as of April this year Kuo predicted that Apple could release a device with a 9-inch foldable display by 2025 at the earliest. Bloomberg Apple has also reported that an additional device with a larger 20-inch foldable screen may be in the works, although it is not eligible for release before 2026. Kuo’s latest prediction does not mention the size of the foldable one equipped with an E Ink display. .
While Apple would be late to the foldable market, it has an asset up its sleeve in the form of iPadOS, the tablet operating system with robust app support from third-party developers. Existing foldable tablets from the likes of Samsung, Oppo, Huawei and Honor, on the other hand, have to rely on Android, whose apps offer inconsistent support for large-screen devices (Google recently announced it hopes to change this).
Apple’s foldable device is probably years away. But Kuo’s latest update offers an interesting prospect of where Apple could go.