back to article Boffins herald end of stiff screens

Flexible e-ink is, again, being heralded as the future of mobile computing, this time with navigation by manipulation of semi-rigid jabber-slablets, as well as grey-on-grey animated action. The revolution comes from boffins at Queens University, Ontario, who are demonstrating how flexible e-ink can create a computing surface …


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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Very cool BUT...

    ... flexible screens are the Fusion reactor of computing. "In 5 years..."

  2. Buzzword

    Not all e-ink screens are born equal

    Video looks terrible in this example, but the up-and-coming Qualcomm Mirasol e-ink display appears to offer the full colour and smooth video of LCD while retaining the battery life and sunlight-readable quality of e-ink.

    1. Thomas 18
      Thumb Up


      Finally a device for reading colour comics in the park.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Geoff Campbell

    Why am I so forcibly reminded....

    ....of all those TV programmes from the '50s showing how glorious the future would be in the year 2000?

    The one true, fixed attribute of the future is that it cannot be predicted at the micro level. And most of the macro predictions are wrong, too.

    Beer, anyone?


    1. shane fitzgerald
      Thumb Up


      Dont mind the 50s see back to the future 2 lately? They got some things right like flAt screen tvs and video Skype buy where the hell is my hover scateboard?

  5. Doug Glass

    Your iPhone will be obsolete in five years

    What won't be obsolete in five years?

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Silly question

      Paris will never be obsolete.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We'll see...

        /me schedules a meeting with Mike Richards, Paris and 2050 ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your iPhone will be obsolete in five years

    Well lets be fair I think every smartphone users thinks their phone will be obsolete in one year let alone five.

  7. Mondo the Magnificent

    Bad Apple....

    So, as per the title, ONLY the iPhone will be obsolete? That means all other brands of "stiff screen" based smart phones will not?

    Again El Reg cheapens down what could have been a decent article by throwing the Apple equation in the story line.

    Is this to grab the attention of fanbois or hatebois? Either way, I expected better.. really now..

    Anyway, rest assure that ALL smart phone vendors will pick up on this technology when it's all polished off and cost effective unless 3D displays steal the show...

    1. Code Monkey

      Calm down dear

      Maybe the author was just using the iPhone as an e-x-am-ple (and one that scans better than "iPhone/Android/Windows phone/Blackberry/other").

    2. gribbler


      wow, you clearly need to take it easy. Many, many, many, many news sites use the word "iPhone" as a generic term for smartphones. Ok, so maybe you expect better of the reg (being a tech site), but really, calm down, take some deep breaths and think "is this sub specifically designed to anger all iPhone users, or am I just over-reacting?"

    3. Richard Brown

      Calm down dear!

      To use the, now immortal, phrase

  8. Badvok

    No more Stiffies?

    Come on, how did you miss the obvious title for this article.

  9. Ian Michael Gumby

    Flexible battery?

    Look, the electronics can be somewhat flexible.... hmm flexible electronics ... flex-tronics? Now that would be a cool name for a company, no? :-P

    The guts of the phone can be made small so even if not flexible, they don't take up a lot of real estate.

    But its the batteries that power the device that will cause you the most problem.

    Maybe they can design one that looks like a heavy watch band where each link in the wrist band is actually a battery and they are all connected in serial...?

    (Patentable? Probably not since the battery tech isn't changed, just the size and case so no net new tech there....)

    1. frank ly

      Think Big

      "Patentable? Probably not since ...."

      That never stopped any of the big players. Go for it.

    2. Geoff Campbell

      I think it's been done.

      Not the watch strap link thing, but properly flexible batteries - I seem to recall reading an article on research into a battery that could be printed onto a paper substrate. Doubt it had much capacity, though.


  10. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Time to write a new business plan

    "You interact with it by bending it into a cellphone"

    I can clearly see demand for advanced origami classes skyrocketing.

  11. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Will it be flat?

    What do you do when you want a nice sturdy flat screen to view stuff on?

    Presumably these screens will be hard to get perfectly flat and if the surface is reflective you'll have even more problem in the sunlight than you do now.

  12. Code Monkey
    Jobs Horns

    Bendy iPhone

    Imagine the thousands of ways you can hold this one wrong!

  13. Roger Stenning

    Oddly enough...

    Hollywood appears to have led the march on this...

    Remember the movie Red planet?

    Check this page out - there's a screencap and short article worth a glance :)

    1. Alien8n

      Earth Final Conflict

      Also had a similar thing in mind for their phones, the screen pulls out of the side of the phone and snaps itself rigid.

      Like the idea of effectively painting a TV onto the wall though. Imagine that with glasses free 3D at the same time and you effectively have a virtual window. Add angle recognition so if you walk upto it and "look down" you effectively look down out of the window and you can create a virtual scyscraper effect, so your humble living room in South Peckham now becomes a virtual New York penthouse. Or even a window on the ISS if you really want :)

  14. Semaj


    eInk will not really be seen as anything other than crap by the general populace (as in people who read magazines, not books) until it can do colour.

  15. shane fitzgerald


    Who wants a bendy phone Anyway?

    All I ask for is a phone that will eek my text messages in morse code by banging on my ear drum with a nanotechnology drummer robot. Now that's the future.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Will it bend?

  17. Alan Brown Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Tek War

    The PDAs in those had flexible displays too, along with car-following video ads.

    If they can do something about the terrible contrast ratio (akin to reading soy ink on cheap bleached newsprint - old school cheap'n'nasty paperbacks/comics) I'll think about buying one.

    Possible killer apps for E-paper (when they get the contract ratio sorted) other than books:

    Billboards, tube/bus shelter advertising displays (5-15,000 people in the printing industry immediately out of work)

    Outboard status displays for your PC (USB or bluetooth updates?)

    Supermarket shelf price displays (already happening) and similar applications.

    Etch-a-sketch for execs.

    The fake window sounds nice but they'd need a backlight. Oled will probably win that one, but McFly's roller blind will probably be embedded in the glass itself - the roller version will be for cheapskates (then again, that's McFly in the movie)

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  19. projectjay

    iPhone Screwed by Boffins' Semi

    Alternative headline? igmc...

  20. Mark .

    Re: relax...

    "Many, many, many, many news sites use the word "iPhone" as a generic term for smartphones."

    Which is still just as stupid. Are we going to start referring to computers as "Macs"? Or maybe we should refer to cameras as Quicktakes, or mp3 players as Zunes?

    At least with say the Ipod for mp3 players, it's the market leader, but Apple are way behind in phones. If anything, we should be referring to Nokia phones (who are the market leader, both in phones, and in the ill-defined "smartphone" category - can you give me a definition of smartphone that includes the original Iphone, but doesn't include most feature phones?).

    As for "relax" I see nothing about the OP that suggested he was angry. He was just pointing out a basic fact: there's no need to add an advertisement for Apple, when the story has nothing to do with them (although at least for once, it's a negative advert).

    We already have a word for these kinds of devices - it's called a phone. What's wrong with that?

  21. david 63

    Three years... almost long enough for people to forget you made a silly prediction...

  22. Oninoshiko


    scientists move one direction, Jobs and the market moves the other.

    They develop a practically indestructible screen. The iPhone4 is made out of glass. I've seen so many shattered ones lately.

  23. Mr Lodestone

    Make a fist please, Mr. Smith

    A possible use for it could be as a display for, and indeed *as*, a pressure cuff (or sphygmomanometer) seeing as that's exactly what it looks like.

    This comment was an excuse to write - and verbalise while doing so - the word sphygmomanometer; which is a banquet of articulation.

    (mine's the one with the tongue-splint in the pocket)

  24. The Alpha Klutz
    Big Brother

    "Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years"

    What a horrifying prospect.

    I can see it now:

    2016: "Now children, I'm your new History teacher. Today we are going to learn about how horrible life was in 2011. You see most things in 2011 had a kind of solid quality to them, so you could easily poke your eye out with them. Yes that is very dangerous and kids were all very blind in 2011. But thanks to Our Government, solid objects have been deprecated and replaced with the lovely flexible versions you are using now. You see kids, pencils didn't always used to bend and flop around like they do now. They used to be VERY dangerous, you could poke your eye out with a pencil. Yes, all the way out. That happened all the time in 2011. Now kids, your homework is to go to Wikipedia and print off the article named "pencil eye stabbing incidents in 2011". Remember not to change the text at all, you will lose marks if you use your own words."

    1. Havin_it

      And... Problem?

      As far as I'm concerned, we cannot call ourselves an advanced civilisation until everything is soft and wobbly enough that we can all just throw ourselves around the place with gay abandon while engaged in any other activity, without getting hurt. We can spend all day zorbing without the big polythene ball, and amidst such mass ecstasy man will never care to make war again.

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