Qualcomm has been touting the usefulness of Mirasol display technology to the mobile device market for quite some time but has been very quiet on that front in terms of new developments for quite some time. Today, that all changes. In partnership with Kyobo Book Centre, Korea’s largest book seller, Qualcomm announced the Kyobo-branded color eReader featuring the first commercial Mirasol display. In addition to that, the Kyobo eReader will also feature Snapdragon S2 processor clocked at 1GHz.

Mirasol display promises to bring color experience to eReaders with long battery life and quick exchange of dynamic pages
Mirasol display promises to bring color experience to eReaders with long battery life and quicker exchange of dynamic pages

For those unaware of Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology, it is a drastically different way of designing a display than what we’re seeing today with LCD displays and LED displays. Qualcomm explains that it is based upon an IMOD (interferometric modulator) element which is a simple MEMS (micro-electric-mechanical system) which is composed of two conductive plates. One is a thin film stack on a glass substrate while the other is a reflective membrane suspended over the substrate material. There is a gap between the two which is filled with air.
This element has two stable states, when no voltage is applied the plates are separated and light hitting the substrate is reflected. When a small voltage is applied, the plates are pulled together by electrostatic attraction and the light is absorbed, turning the element black and giving you an image. This is the elementary way that Qualcomm’s Mirasol displays are made and how they work. If you’d like more detail we recommend you check out Qualcomm’s Mirasol ‘How it Works’ page because it is certainly an interesting concept.

As you can see, the reader has quite good viewing angle, but don't expect IPS LCD panel quality. The 1st gen technology is for ebooks...
As you can see, the reader has quite good viewing angle, but don’t expect IPS LCD panel quality. The 1st gen technology is for ebooks…

From our conversations with the company, Mirasol simply fits into the company and more importantly Paul Jacob’s vision of the next big thing in mobile. Qualcomm believes that they have put brought significant amounts of improvements to the way that mobile processors and baseband chips perform and consume power. As Qualcomm has ‘solved’ these problems, they have looked into new places where mobile is struggling to perform and save power. Qualcomm saw that displays were the new power hogs in mobile devices and as such decided that Mirasol would be the perfect solution to many mobile devices’ power consumption problems. Furthermore, it was explained to us that a lot of the power savings result in the fact that most of the time when we’re reading a page or a message, we don’t really need to be refreshing the screen as the content remains the same. Because of this fact, Qualcomm saves a lot of power by not refreshing the screen unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.

Qualcomm’s display that is being used in the Kyobo eReader will be 5.7" in size and feature a resolution of 1024×768 resulting in a display density of 223ppi, which should result in crisp images and text. This display, in conjunction with Qualcomm’s S2 Snapdragon chip should afford the Kyobo eReader unrivaled battery life and performance. The Kyobo eReader is already available in South Korea for 355,000 Won (310 USD) and Kyobo Platinum Book Club members can purchase the eReader at a discounted price of 303,000 Won (265 USD).

The company claims that the Kyobo is capable of weeks of reading under typical usage scenarios, which would put it in contention with the Kindle which isn’t a color eReader until you consider the Kindle Fire which is really more of a tablet, which is why its battery life isn’t so stellar.

Of course, we will reserve any real judgment until we see the device in hand, but from the prototype devices we’ve played with at Qualcomm’s headquarters we’re definitely confident that this technology has quite a bit of promise. Hopefully we’ll see more Mirasol news and announcements at CES 2012.