CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and ROSEMONT, Ill. – Mobile communications giant Motorola Inc. and electronic-paper developer E Ink Corp.have teamed up to create a new low-cost cell phone that is the world's first to use e-paper display technology.
The electronic-paper display is the key element to making the new Motofone affordable both to purchase and to use in markets in developing countries, where Motorola will start distributing the phone in the second half of this year. The display's inherent sunlight readability will make it easily viewable in the high-ambient-light environments of countries such as India and Brazil. Its battery will also require minimal recharging, according to E Ink Senior Marketing Manager Darren Bischoff, as e-paper does not require power-draining backlighting units (BLUs) used in most cellular-phone displays.
"The backlight display in a cell phone is one of the largest sources of power consumption. With the Motofone, they're basically talking about 400 hours of standby time because of the way our technology can be used without a backlight," Bischoff explained, adding that the lack of a BLU makes this Motorola's slimmest phone yet at just 9 mm thick. "So it's what it's able to do that makes it unlike any other cell phone: It's extraordinarily readable in sunlight. It's very portable not only from the physical sense of being very rugged, but it also has this extraordinarily low power consumption. You can go away on trips and not even have to think about taking your charger with you. So it's all of these attributes together that are taking advantage of the electronic display products that E Ink was able to provide Motorola with in this case."
The incorporation of an electrophoretic display into a mainstream product such as the Motofone marks a significant milestone for the technology, according to Paul Drzaic, former E Ink Director of Technology and President-Elect of the Society for Information Display (SID). Drzaic, who is not involved with the Motofone project, currently runs his own display-consulting business, Drzaic Consulting Services.
"First, there were signs and e-books (using electrophoretics), and now there is yet another data point that says the brightness and viewability are attractive enough to compensate for some of (electronic paper's) limitations" such as the lack of full color and video capabilities, Drzaic explained. "The other thing I think is in some ways even more notable is that this is an affirmation that Motorola believes E Ink and its manufacturing partners are sufficiently advanced to support the scale demanded by the cell-phone market. They (E Ink) need to have enough capacity and proof of stability that they can launch a product like this."
While electrophoretic-ink display technology has been integrated into several commercial products recently, including an e-book from Sony and a USB drive from Lexar, E Ink's Director of Marketing and Planning Dave Jackson agreed that the Motofone is an achievement for electronic paper in terms of production, which the company believes will remain steady due to increasing demand in developing markets.
"(The Motofone is) a major accomplishment for the electronic-paper-display market itself. We're talking about tens of millions of units per year. We have had a number of commercial products (using E Ink technology), but not at this eight-digit volume rate," Jackson said.
E Ink manufactures the imaging film used in its electrophoretic displays in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Partner company Toppan Printing Co. then coats the film in Japan before it is integrated into the phones.
The cheaper phones in demand in developing regions are a global trend, according to Bischoff. While consumers in countries such as the United States or Japan frequently demand color displays in addition to cameras, video and other multimedia capabilities from their mobile devices, the Motofone's target audience is only interested in the phone's core function.
"There are a lot of people who just want a very application-specific device," Bischoff said. "There will always be a leading-edge part of the market that wants to adopt the highest and greatest technology, but there are also people who want a product that just works great at what it's supposed to do, and that's what this cell phone is all about."
Motorola did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.
– Jessica Quandt
SEOUL, Korea – Before the year is out, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. plans to commercially launch 40-in. liquid-crystal display (LCD) TVs using light-emitting-diode (LED) backlighting units (BLUs), according to company representatives.
While LCD-TV makers have traditionally used cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) BLUs, Samsung and Sony Corp. in the past few years have each begun experimenting with using LEDs. Sony launched 40- and 46-in. LCDs with LED BLUs through its Qualia line in 2004, and Samsung unveiled an 82-in. LED-backlit LCD in January of this year.
Though LED BLUs are more expensive than CCFLs, LEDs have inherent advantages over the more traditional technology. According to Samsung spokesperson JaeMin Lee, LEDs allow for very high color saturation (around 105% NTSC), are more environmentally friendly thanks to their lack of mercury, and consume less power than CCFLs. According to industry research group DisplaySearch, other benefits can include a wider color gamut, higher panel transmittance, and the potential for thinner, lighter displays.
"It is hard to say yet that now is a good time (for LED-backlit LCD TVs)," Lee admitted. "However, the LCD-TV market keeps growing bigger, and LCD is the best display for high-definition images. Samsung is obligated to try out various LCD technology applications as the No. 1 market leader."
While several published reports have put Samsung's launch date for the new sets in September, Lee would only confirm that the company aims to launch before the end of this year. The LCD panels will be manufactured at the site of Samsung and Sony's joint-venture, S-LCD, in Tangjeong, Korea.
Lee stressed that it is too early to predict what kind of impact LED-backlit LCD TVs will have in the marketplace. Display industry market research firm Insight Media forecasts indicate the specific "direct-view" technology being used in Samsung's 40-in. TVs won't achieve the widespread use or cost competitiveness of CCFLs or the "edge-illuminated" LED backlights used in notebook computers and computer monitors.
"What Samsung is showing is a direct-view LED backlight, which means it's a 2-D array of LED," explained Insight Media President Chris Chinnock. "That's the common approach for creating a backlight right now. Direct view will slowly penetrate the market, but will be confined to the higher-end products. LED needs to find a mainstream home to get the volume up.
"If (Samsung) can get a product to market now to establish the technology and start to ramp up some of the infrastructure, that's fine. If they want to transition that to an edge-light one later, that's fine. A lot of the investment they make now will be applicable to that."
– Jessica Quandt
Kodak announced in late August a licensing agreement with Tohoku Device Co., Ltd. whereby Tohoku will incorporate Kodak's organic display technology into white OLED modules for use as backlights in displays. Tohoku joins more than 15 companies that have licensed organic display technology from Kodak. The royalty-bearing license enables Tohoku Device to use Kodak technology for OLED backlights in a variety of flat-panel-display applications and includes a cross license to Tohoku Device's patent portfolio. The agreement also gives Tohoku Device the opportunity to purchase Kodak's patented OLED materials for use in manufacturing displays.
Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. in late August formed a joint venture with Chinese electronic components company SVA Electron Co., Ltd. to manufacture color filters for TFT-LCDs in Shanghai. SVA-Fujifilm will be the first company in China to manufacture color filters for large-size TFT-LCDs, supplying large-sized color filters used in laptops, monitors, and large-screen TVs for the growing Chinese LCD market. The joint venture will be capitalized at US $100 million, with SVA contributing 75% and Fujifilm 25%. The companies expect the total capital investment to reach US $270 million. The production line will use a 5th-generation glass substrate and have an expected capacity of 70,000 units per month, with production scheduled to begin in November 2007.
Taiwan-based shoe manufacturer Pou Chen Group will team with home-appliance manu-facturer Taiwan Kolin Co. to produce thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT-LCD) TVs in California, according to various published reports in Asia. This will reportedly be the first LCD-TV production facility in the United States operated by a Taiwanese manufacturer. The facility will produce between 100,000 and 200,000 units of 32- to 47-in LCDs a year. Resulting products will be supplied to Kolin's partner Syntax-Brillian, which markets the Olevia brand of LCD TVs. Pou Chen, which is a major shareholder in Quanta Display Corp., is also allegedly planning to invest in the production of 65-in. rear-projection TVs.
Universal Display Corp. (UDC) and Novaled AG have created a record-breaking red PHOLED device that achieves new milestones in power efficiency and operating voltage, the two companies announced on Aug. 16. The device has a luminous efficiency of 15 cd/A at an operating voltage of less than 4 V, resulting in record power efficiency of 12 lumens per watt, according to a joint press release. The device was achieved using a combination of UDC's proprietary PHOLED technology, which offers up to 100% internal quantum efficiency that is as much as 4 times higher than that of conventional OLED technology, and Novaled's proprietary doping technology and materials, which offer up to 3 times lower operating voltage than conventional OLEDs, the press release stated. The red PHOLED device has a peak external quantum efficiency of 16% and a drive voltage of less than 4 V at 1,000 cd/m2, and demonstrates excellent projected operational lifetimes of over 150,000 hours at an initial luminance of 500 cd/m2 with a luminous efficacy exceeding 15 cd/A, according to the statement.
eMagin Corp. announced on Aug. 8 that it would begin work with the U.S. Army to develop better ways of assessing the applicability of active-matrix (AM) OLED displays in military systems based on the length of their usable lifetimes. eMagin will work specifically with the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD) of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command's (RDECOM's) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CRDEC), according to a company release.
TCO Development announced in late August that BenQ Corp., EIZO Nanao Corp. and Samsung Electronics are the first companies to have their multifunction displays certified with the TCO '06 Media Displays label. The TCO Media Display label – an update on its '03 label – is intended to certify liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) that show moving images, according to information from the company's Web site. TCO Development is a division of TCO, the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees, and has developed standards for office equipment, including monitors and other displays. By achieving the TCO '06 Media Displays label, the EIZO, BenQ and Samsung displays have passed strict requirements in four main areas: ergonomics (usability, picture quality and color reproduction), energy (low consumption in stand-by mode), emissions (low electric and magnetic fields), and ecology (ISO 14001 or EMAS certification, pre-preparation for recycling, and reduced dispersion into the environment of brominating and chloridizing flame-resistant material and heavy metals complying with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive).
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