Electronic Paper Displays (or EPDs) have proved a popular choice for e-readers, as they provide a more natural, paper-like experience than an LCD screen. The quality of these screens has drastically improved in recent years and the latest versions can not only handle images but they can do it in color too.
The news from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (opens in new tab) that Apple is testing 'EPDs for future foldable devices and tablet-like devices' has drawn many back to the idea of a foldable iPhone. Perhaps appearing as early as 2023 in the iPhone 15.
While it's certainly not impossible that Apple would consider a second screen on the back of an iPhone, or even a folding model with an outer EPD screen, I'd be surprised if the iPhone was the first place these screens would appear. After all, Apple has a range of products that are far more fitting.
Here's where I think a color EPD could really be of benefit.
Apple iPads are very handy devices for anything from gaming and watching movies, to replacing your laptop for a lightweight work solution. The one thing it's not great for is reading books.
Despite having an amazing screen resolution, it's just not as practical as a dedicated e-reader. Not least because it's considerably heavier to keep in one hand – even the iPad mini.
A folding iPad could take advantage of a second EPD screen, providing a smaller device that's easier to hold. Alternatively, an entry-level iPad could offer a folding EPD screen instead of an LCD display, making it cheaper, lighter and with a long-lasting battery.
Another option here could be the EPD replacing the magic keyboard, providing a changeable second screen/trackpad/keyboard display, like on the Lenovo Yogabook C930.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Apple Watch for some users is its battery life. Having to charge your watch each night is something that still seems foreign to potential smart watch owners, so finding a way to increase battery life could be of benefit.
Using a color EPD for a version of the Apple Watch would no doubt mean huge battery savings and could mean a watch that offers a 5 or even 7 day battery. This would likely need to be a separate model to the main Apple Watch – perhaps a budget or sports focused model but should be more than capable of basic watch and tracker functions.
The HomePod, to me, seems like a natural product to add a screen to, particularly for controlling a range of smart home gadgets through the home app. While Apple could essentially bolt an iPad on to a HomePod to create a true rival to the Google Nest Hub Max, an EPD could be a more subtle solution. It could also allow the screen to curve easily with the shape of the HomePod.
If Apple were to explore a portable HomePod, an EPD screen would also draw less power, making it a sensible option.