Hybrid Screen: Is this Apple's answer to the LCD/e-ink schism

Posted on by Mike Evans

Tony Cole of and other proponents of the “electronic paper” e-ink displays will be pleased to see that Apple could be jumping on the bandwagon at last. According to AppleInsider, Apple are considering a hybrid display for future iPads. In a patent application this week, they envisage a hybrid system that could dynamically switch all or part of the full-colour LCD screen to a low-power black-and-white e-ink display for text and other static content.

You don’t need one of these with an iPad or iPhone—it’s built inAs the owner of an Amazon Kindle, iPad 2 and iPhone 4, I confess I’m happy reading books and “static content” on either of Apple’s two iOS devices. Less so on the Kindle.  I’ve given the Kindle a good run but it has been sitting unused on my bedside table for the past two months. About all I use it for is to arrange my books into collections (a feature not available on Kindle apps for iOS).

I’ll be writing more on the Kindle later when it has gathered a bit more dust, but for the moment it’s enough for me to say I really prefer LCD to e-ink. Perversely, the iPhone 4 is my absolute favourite book reader: “The best book is the one you have in your pocket”, to paraphrase the photographer’s slogan. Maybe I’m a masochist, but I lose no opportunity of singing the praises of the iPhone’s book-reading talents.

The idea of a hybrid screen is alluring and if the patent turns to reality this could be a real breakthrough for Cupertino. Not only would the system increase battery life, it would allow book reading in all conditions. Currently LCDs can sometimes be difficult to read in strong direct sunlight, whereas e-ink screens are impossible to read in anything but good lighting conditions. A hybrid could keep everyone happy.

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