Say Goodbye to Infrared Touchscreens on E Ink eBook Readers

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I’ve been keeping an eye on things over on E Ink’s website for anything new ever since they stated in a recent interview that they would be releasing a new generation of ebook reader screens soon that are capable of going up to 100 page turns without needing to do a full page refresh, just partial refresh.

While I haven’t seen anything new about that yet, I did notice something that suggests ebook readers could be transitioning from using infrared touchscreens to capacitive touchscreens. In fact Amazon has already done just that. The Kindle Touch was the only E Ink Kindle to ever use an infrared touchscreen; with the Paperwhite Amazon switched over to a capacitive screen.

That change may be coming to other brands of ebook readers too. Over on E Ink’s website they have a list of all the screen types available for ereaders using Pearl display modules. What’s interesting is that none of the screens listed suggest infrared touchscreens as an option. But capacitive is listed as a built-in option, meaning E Ink ships them with the capacitive layer already applied.

E Ink didn’t used to have that option in the past. Their website states that “Capacitive touch technology utilizes finger swipes, and is placed on top of the display module. E Ink’s touch solutions will not affect the reflectivity of the display.”

This isn’t anything new; E Ink has had that listed on their website all year. But no new major ebook readers have been released yet this year except the Kobo Aura HD, and it has a special screen size that’s not even listed as an option at E Ink, so it’s more of an anomaly.

I have a feeling that this year’s ebook readers will feature capacitive screens instead of infrared. The leaked images of the new Sony PRS-T3 and new Kobo eReader appear to have a screen that is less recessed than earlier models. There is a picture of the new Kobo from an extreme angle (shown above) of the front and the material looks very thin. With infrared touchscreens there needs to be enough space to add the infrared sensors, and it certainly doesn’t appear to have that on the new Kobo.

From a usability standpoint, it doesn’t really make much difference so the transition shouldn’t be a big deal. The Kindle Paperwhite’s capacitive touchscreen works well and doesn’t appear to have a negative impact on screen clarity like the old capacitive screens Sony used to use that were highly reflective.

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9 Responses to “Say Goodbye to Infrared Touchscreens on E Ink eBook Readers”

  1. The tech isn’t nearly as dead as you might think.

    Kobo is still using IR touchscreens and so is Onyx. And we still don’t know what B&N plans to use or even if they plan to release a new ereader, so it’s a little early to proclaim that a tech is dead.

    • I’m by no means proclaiming the tech is dead, just that we may be seeing a transition to capacitive, especially with the major brands. If E Ink already offers capacitive touch built-in, it’s likely going to be cheaper than having to license with Neonode for their IR tech and have it added to the screen after the fact.

  2. I approve of the switch.
    Infrared has way too many false positives.

  3. Personally, comparing my Sony 350 to a Kindle Paperwhite, I thought the capacitative layer *did* make a difference in text crispness, the older Sony, with 12 few pixels per inch looking much sharper than the Kindle.

    I have no objection to e-readers going to a capacitative touch, I just hope it is not at the expense of sharp crisp text.

    I’d like to see such readers use the higher resolution screen like the Kobo Aura does to mitigate any loss of text clarity.

  4. what do you think is coming with the new kindles if there will be new kindles at all?

  5. I don’t think the list on the E Ink’s page quoted (http://www.eink.com/display_products_pearl.html) is accurate actually. It does not mention Kobo Aura HD’s type of E Ink screen – 6.8″ 1440 x 1080 res with frontlight… Or maybe I am mistaken and Kobo’s not using E Ink’s display in that model?

    • I think that that is such a unique size they don’t advertise it. It was supposed to be a limited edition run so maybe E Ink isn’t planning on continuing to offer that size and resolution screen.

      • Hi. On this matter, i just had seen those photos also, and wondered if the new kobo would have the same capacitive screen of paperwhite (which I don’t really like, by the way).

        Now I was looking on the mobileread forum, and saw this statement from Sameer (who happens to be a kobo folk who uses to write there):

        ‘The kobo Glo uses IR touch from neonode. This eliminates the need to add another layer of glass or conductive surface on to the screen. The less layers, the better the experience in our view’.

        So, even they changed their mind, or they just didn’t mean what they said. I would be puzzled if the second, because IR is working really nice, I think… At least they just enter the wagon E-Ink is providing, in order to lower costs as you suggested.

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