Roll your Readius
At the end of 2006 a new company spun out of Philips as venture-funded private company to deal with flexible displays. Now, a year and a half later Polymer Vision Ltd has a commercial product, a rollable display that we'll see in stores this year. Polymer Vision was awarded with "Innovation Award" at the 3GSM Congress in Barcelona last year, and we are glad that the award wasn't for something that will see the light of the day in 2335 with the advent of the Enterprise, but for something useful that we'll see very soon.
The underlying technology, E Ink, is know for some time know, and Polymer Vision managed to incorporate it into very interesting device named Readius. Contrary to some other models and prototypes which are bulky and clumsy, Readius is useful in everyday use and true pocket-friendly device.
Now, I little bit of technical features. Readius weights 115 grams and that's in the range of mobile phones. When it closed the dimensions are 115 x 57 x 21mm, again comparable to mobiles. When it goes in the wild to pick up a new content it connects via 3G HSDPA, works with all bands (Tri Band device), and there is also Bluetooth 2.0. To keep all in sync there's ActiveSync, the heart of Polymer Vision Readius rather quick ARM processor on 400 MHz, and for power there is a battery that will happily be alive for 30 hours of continuous reading. It should be noted that there is 256 MB of internal memory and there is a slot for Micro SD memory card, thus there is a maximum of 8 GB of memory for your e-books and other content.
There are eight buttons on Readius and some analysts think that's too much. However, we don't agree. There are two groups of mobile devices today on the market. The first one offers a minimalist user interface with only one or no buttons at all, that is iPhone class. From the other side, there are devices like Sony Ericsson P1 that offers all button that you usually see on a computer keyboard. Each approach has its good side, so we don't see why eight button are too much. I'm rather satisfied with my button-rich P1. OK, I got carried away...
All the technical data aside, the display is the most interesting thing here. It is 127 millimetres diagonally but it can be rolled and then it will fit in any pocket. It can display 16 level of grey, with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, and as you can see on the pictures it is very readable. The engineers at Polymer Vision hope that in few years they will be able to produce a color screen capable of playing video. Readius supports MP3 so you can listen to your favourite podcasts or music. There is also support for POP3 and IMAP so you are able to read e-mails from your account, and if you have a free e-mail like Google or Yahoo! Mail - it can use them too.
Now, the question is from where you will download the content? Polymer Vision is in talks with various content provider and company expect that lots of attractive content will be available on its website. The word here is diversity, so expect it all: from e-book to news to magazine articles.
The Italy is the first market that will see Readius alive and kicking. Telecom Italia will offer a device with rollable display that will be used for reading books, newspapers via TIM' mobile network. (It is a rare situation, if I may add, that a new technology is in our neighbourhood, not in Japan or Korea. Now, let them wait a little bit.)
Polymer Vision's Readius is not just a proof of concept, it is a very interesting device. The price will be in the range of high-end mobile and for a reason. It is one of the most interesting device we saw. ■