E-ink spurred the e-reader revolution as technology that provided devices featuring easy-to-read displays and long battery life. Then, the high-resolution color screens and multitasking capabilities of tablet computers came along and shoved e-readers to the side, according to analyst firm iSuppli, which reported e-reader sales fell from 23 million units in 2011 to 15 million in 2012.
“Tablets are good and getting better,” Alva Taylor, faculty director for the Center of Digital Strategies at Dartmouth University, told Technology Review. “I think there are multiple technologies that beat the experiences that e-ink provides. To me, e-ink is like duct tape as a product. They are never going to be as good as nuts and bolts and screws. But for certain kinds of small applications, they are perfect.”
Those small applications are exactly what the firm E Ink is focused on.
While E Ink continues to work on color for its displays, it’s also finding uses for the technology in flexible devices that require a tiny battery, making the firms in the emerging smartwatch market potential customers. The technology could also turn up in three-color store signs, while improvements are being made to provide enhanced readability, smoother page turns, and even lower power consumption on e-readers.