Could a future iPhone have a display that blends LCD and e-ink components? It’s hard to know yet, but as AppleInsider reports, Apple has filed a patent for such a display—and the images in the patent application show an iOS preference panel with an on-off switch for an "electronic paper display."
E-ink displays are undeniably great for reading devices like Amazon’s Kindle, because they consume next to no power and can be read in direct sunlight. However, they have no backlighting and are slow to refresh, which makes snappy user interaction problematic. AppleInsider says the patent application describes a display with "’multiple composite display regions,’" where content could be shown in both the ‘electronic paper’ mode and ‘video display’ format at the same time." The implementation would involve a translucent e-ink panel sandwiched between the touch-sensitive area of the display and the LCD panel.
Now, Apple has apparently been cooking this up for a little while. AppleInsider mentions a patent filing date some time in October of 2009. The patent filing only became public this week, however. That means such a device might already be in the works—or it might not. Apple is known for filing many wild and wonderful patents and shelving the technology they describe.