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First shown at the CES 2014 last month in Vegas, ARCHOS has introduced their new SmartWatches line of products. Their higher-end model features an E Ink display which allows better battery life and a very nice looking curved screen. It follows ARCHOS vision of watches should be simple devices acting as an extension of the smartphone / tablet and should be used mainly for media control and notifications (SMS, emails, social networks). Support is expected for Android and iOS with companion applications available on both app stores.
ARCHOS E Ink SmartWatch features
Current device we got to see, which seems to be a prototype, features the following:
- E Ink gray scale display
- Curved screen, thanks to the E Ink technology
- Bluetooth support to pair with Android and iOS phones / tablets
- No touchscreen, side buttons are used to control the device
- Battery life is announced for 1 to 2 weeks
- Splashproof, no details given on IPX protection level
Here is a short video on current ARCHOS SmartWatch prototype showing the main features and the display refresh (real time) :
How does E Ink display work ?
E Ink also known as electrophoretic ink or electronic ink is a technology was initially developed at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s. It was then refined by research at the MIT Media Lab around 1996, which came to a patent and E Ink Corporation was funded the following year.
E Ink is actually a nice mix of chemistry, physics and electronics where ambient light from the environment is reflected from the surface of the display back to the reader's eyes (reflective displays).
As explained by about.com, the display consists of a thin film that contains millions of tiny microcapsules, each about 100 microns wide (roughly the diameter of a human hair). E Ink concept is that each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a liquid. Applying a negative electrical field causes the white particles to come to the surface while applying a positive electrical field causes the black particles to come to the surface. By applying different fields at various parts of a screen, E Ink can produce a text display.
(Picture from eink.com)
Compared to LCD display used on tablets, E Ink screens offer a really lower consumption as power is only needed when refreshing the display, no power is consumed when the display is static. In addition, E Ink does not require a backlight which also saves energy but can make the display difficult to read in low-light environments: with reflective displays the more ambient light, the brighter the display looks.
Compared to other display technologies where screen refresh occurs in milliseconds, it usually takes a few fractions of a second on E Ink display, with some screen blinking involved.
ARCHOS E Ink SmartWatch price and availability
As usual with ARCHOS, pricing and availability data should be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, during CES 2014 interviews, the same ARCHOS representative person announced the E Ink SmartWatch to retail by this summer for around $200 later mentioned pricing around $129 in another interview. During ARCHOS presentation last week in Paris, pricing is mentioned to be in the €130 to €150 range.
Pictures and video credit: Eugene Gorski
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