Dual-Screen Cool: Can a Dual Screened iPhone Solve the Screen Size Divide?
Does the iPhone 5 need a larger screen, or are the new round of iPhone competitors’ screens too big? Maybe a dual-screened iPhone could satisfy everyone.
Few rumored iPhone 5 feature upgrades stoke as much conjecture and conversation as the size of the iPhone’s screen, and whether or not the iPhone 5 will offer an upgrade in this department. With late-breaking rumors that the iPhone 5 may retain the form factor of the iPhone 4, analysts believe that this could indicate Apple will either retain the same screen size as is currently offered, or bump its dimensions up marginally with the limitations of the iPhone 4′s chassis. Regardless, the current iPhone 5 rumor mill suggests that the iPhone 5 may in fact remain well below the 4″ mark among the top-tier of competitive smartphones.
We’ve bandied about the screen size debate on this blog for quite some time now, amidst a recent report that further corroborates the sub-4″ screen for the iPhone 5. Whether or not Apple will increase the screen size or not on the iPhone 5 will remain an unknown until its unveiling, however, should Cupertino decide to pass on a bigger screen, one must ask the question: does Apple see the increase in screen size as a detracting quality from what they perceive to be the “right size” of a smartphone? We may or may not ever get a definitive answer on that question, particularly as Steve Jobs begins to pull away from being the mouthpiece of Apple. In the past, he was not averse to going on the record about what he thought of technology trends, such as his disdain for Flash, QWERTY keyboards on smartphones, and el cheap-o netbooks. But whether or not the new executive team will be as vociferous remains to be seen.
One advancement in screen technology that could make its way onto a future iPhone, however, is a dual screen.
Dual screen mock-ups for the iPhone 5 aren’t hard to find — they’re out there. Probably because they’re relatively easy to Photoshop: just copy and paste the iPhone, and add some kind of hinge in the middle and voila! You have a cutting-edge iPhone 5 design. But while dual-screen iPhone 5 mock-ups abound, there really doesn’t seem to be much in the way of intel out of Cupertino that suggests anything is in the works to adopt this early technology.
There is, however, a dual screened Android smartphone on the market today that offers some early successes in the technology. Kyrocera’s Echo sports a very similar set of dimensions as the iPhone 4, both in chassis size (it is an exceedingly slim phone considering its features) and 3.5″ screen size. But by way of a unique hinge and lever system (which Kyrocera holds the patent on), the top screen slides over and snaps flush with another 3.5″ screen below. When the two screens combine, you end up with a capacious 4.7″ diagonal display.
The dual screen of the Echo also allows for multi-tasking, so that the user can do two things at once: surf the web, read e-mail, check out videos, etc. All in all, the versatility of the screens would seem to make all iPhone users happy: you could retain the compact ergonomics of the iPhone 4′s specs, while having the option of folding out the dual screens to watch videos or do something productive that benefits from more gesture area.
It’s the kind of technology that is surprisingly lacking in Apple’s patents.
Perhaps the reason has something to do with the Echo’s Achilles heel: battery power. Two screens also means twice the battery drain, and the average Echo user learns quickly that the dual screen feature has to be used sparingly if no recharging source is readily available. Kyrocera didn’t seem to have much of an answer for this problem as far as rechargeable battery technology goes, which I guess is why they actually provide a spare battery and charger with the Echo when you buy it. (That was an ill omen, indeed!) Also, the Echo doesn’t have edge-to-edge screens, which means that there is a bezel that splits the 4.7″ screen (though the brain tends to phase it out after a few minutes).
But if anyone could figure out the battery issue on a dual screened iPhone, it would be Apple; they continue to lead in the area of rechargeable battery technology.
While the prospect of a dual-screened iPhone is currently quite dim, it would not surprise me if Cupertino begins to think out of the box on how they can give people a big-screen mobile computing experience while retaining a small package. Pico projectors and holographics could be on the horizon — maybe as soon as the iPhone 6 in 2012.
By Michael Nace