Wouldn’t it be awesome if your smartphone’s battery life was measured in days instead of hours? The major source of power consumption in any mobile device is always the display, so it makes sense that a new technology could provide the breakthrough in battery life that many consumers are longing for.
Qualcomm thinks this breakthrough technology could be interferometric modulator display (IMOD), which create various colors through the interference of reflected light and promises to deliver power consumption a tenth or less of that of a comparable LCD. That sounds damn impressive and it’s why Qualcomm took over the development of this technology way back in 2004, when they acquired Iridigm Display Corporation. For years they have been trying to commercialize the technology under their Mirasol brand, but we have yet to see it ship in volume in any mobile devices.
You can get a feel for how long Qualcomm has been trying to perfect the Mirasol displays by watching a couple of the promotional videos they produced back in 2009. Clarence Chui, who leads the group at Qualcomm developing the new technology said back then, “You actually don’t get many opportunites in your carreer to work on a fundamentally new process based technology. I think there’s a feeling of inevitability of this technology getting into the market and really igniting people’s imagination. It’s just striking.”
Many thought 2011 could finally be the year that Mirasol displays were ready for prime time. Qualcomm demoed Mirasol at CES and announced they would launch a 5.7-inch e-reader this year, but that project was canned when Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said he “didn’t really like [it], so we basically decided not to launch it, and instead just focus on the next version of it.”
So what exactly will the “next version” of Mirasol include and when will it be available?
From what we have gathered, it looks like the new Mirasol displays will have much faster response times suitable for high definition video, achieve better color reproduction, and include a backlight for situations when no ambient light is available to light the screen.
Tom Simonite of Technology Review recently visited Qualcomm’s headquarters and reported that they were investing almost $1 billion to build a new factory in Taiwan that is scheduled to come online in mid-2012 and be able to produce Mirasol displays at a very large scale.
If things turn out as planned, that means we could see the first Android smartphones and tablets with Mirasol displays in the second half of 2012. We will have to wait and see if the picture quality and performance is up to par with today’s displays, but I’d be willing to sacrifice a little quality if it meant my battery would last for days.
Hopefully, next year will finally be the time that Qualcomm is ready to unleash Mirasol to the masses. The news of a $1 billion factory in Taiwan is a good sign that things are on track, but there is still a lot of work ahead to ensure a near perfect yield and mass production.
While we wait for next year, check out the demo video below and let us know what you think about the potential of Mirasol. Would you choose a display with a lesser picture quality than LCD if it offered greatly enhanced battery life?
For more information, make sure to check out the official Mirasol displays site.