Our smartphone screens are becoming larger and larger but they can only go so far without turning those phones into actual tablets. Some manufacturers are trying to solve that with still to come foldable phones though others take another approach by adding a second screen, usually on the back. Researchers at Microsoft apparently had a different approach to the problem. It did have a second screen, an e-paper one even, but instead of permanently fixing it behind the phone, they put it in a flip cover instead.
The idea of an e-paper second screen isn’t exactly new. That was, to some extent, pioneered by Russian company Yota and its YotaPhones. Those, however, lock you into always having that second display and paying upfront for the feature.
In contrast, Microsoft Research’s Display Cover, reported by On Msft, acts like a regular cover and is even as thin as one, only 3 mm. It is implied that the cover is removable as it it attached to a regular Lumia 640 and communicates via Bluetooth only. As such, users wouldn’t have to pay the penalty when they want to use the second screen.
What would they use that for anyway? The most immediate use case would be for data you need to be more or less permanent for a long period, like boarding tickets or passes, schedules, or shopping lists. Given it wouldn’t always be visible unless flipped open, it wouldn’t make much sense to have it display time, weather, or social media.
That said, the researchers also gave some though into using the second screen as a virtual keyboard, pretty much like what Lenovo has done with its newest Yoga Book. Sadly, their prototype didn’t have any touch input capability so that was mostly in the realm of the theoretical. Microsoft Research also concedes that the idea will nt have much appeal until the advent of colored e-paper screens. And considering the Windows Phone platform is dead, they’ll have to start from scratch from Android anyway.