Qualcomm Bets $120M On The Display Tech That Will Make Your Next MacBook, iPhone Or iPad Even Thinner

Qualcomm Bets $120M On The Display Tech That Will Make Your Next MacBook, iPhone Or iPad Even Thinner

It seems like we’ve been waiting for Sharp IGZO technology to solve all of our battery life problems forever now. Unfortunately, Sharp hasn’t just been slow to get the exciting display tech out on the market… they’ve also struggled with financial issues relating to their core business that have threatened to put the Japanese company under.

Luckily, it looks like Sharp might be saved, with Qualcomm now apparently investing up to $120 million in Sharp, specifically to get IGZO displays out there to the masses.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Sharp and Qualcomm will work together to develop screens based on the Japanese company’s new IGZO display technology and Qualcomm’s microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, displays. The former, named for a new material used—indium gallium zinc oxide—hold several advantages over silicon-based screens, Sharp says. These latter offer promise as a lower-power alternative to today’s screens.

According to Sharp, the new displays making use of the two technologies allow mobile devices to go longer between charges, provide more pixels per inch for sharper resolution and enable touch screens to be more accurate and sensitive.

Sharp is apparently betting that IGZO will save the company from financial ruin. It’s not a bad bet. IGZO technology is, in theory, a real winner. Here’s how we described IGZO working several months ago:

In an LCD display, you have a certain number of pixels, all of which must be connected with transistors so that they can be controlled. The problem with this transistor layer is that it exists between the pixels themselves and the backlight, meaning that it partially obscures the light that is meant to shine through the pixels. The result is that much of the light emitted by the backlight is lost, and so the backlight must shine all the brighter (and therefore use up more battery) in order to appear of sufficient brightness to a user. IGZO technology lets a lot more light through the transistor layer, leading to substantial battery savings.

Those battery savings mean that devices like the iPhone or iPad could get away with even slimmer designs while potentially improving battery life.

It’s obvious how such a technology could make Sharp rich, but they need to stay alive and healthy long enough to get IGZO out there if they are going to do so. Let’s hope for all our sakes this Qualcomm deal helps them do that.

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  • FriarNurgle

    It’s in the TOS. We MUST upgrade.

  • Adrayven

    This is exciting technology that I hope comes out.. it will benefit so many products. The irony is, Sharp may end up overwhelmed with orders for the tech.. Assuming Samsung doesn’t steal it first and mass produce it killing off Sharp once and for all. You just know Samsung is planning something toward that end…

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John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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