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Why Samsung Sold Liquavista, in a Single Photo

P1020616I was in the Samsung booth earlier today, checking out their screen tech, when I came across the the perfect scene to explain why Samsung sold Liquivista.

Here it is:


The image above shows 3 ten inch screens (as well as the recently announced 13.3″ screen). Two of the 10″ screens are in use now, with one on the Nexus 10, and one of the 10″ screens is Samsung’s next-gen "green panel"  display.

Yes, Samsung is calling an OLED screen "green"; now that was worth a giggle. They’re not producing the new screen yet but when they do it will use 30% less power than the screen in the Nexus 10 while offering the same resolution and screen quality.

The thing is, Liquavista can’t offer a similar high quality, high resolution screen. All it can offer is low-power and sunlight-visible. And since pretty is winning out over functional in the mobile device market (because Apple said so, that’s why), there was little chance that Liquavista would ever be used on Samsung’s mobile devices.

BTW, this is more or less what I said in January, but I think the label Samsung hung on their next screen was worth a comment. They chose to call this a green solution rather than deploy the truly low-power Liquavista screen tech. That more than anything should tell you that pretty won out over functional.

P.S. Samsung’s cutting edge screen tech is based on the Pentile family of patents. Here’s Wikipedia for more info.

P.P.S. The trick to reducing power in the new display is that 25% of the screen area consists of white pixels. Those pixels exist just to let more back light out so the screen looks brighter. This saves energy by letting the backlight be weaker. See Wikipedia for more info.

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Sorin May 22, 2013 um 3:23 am

While I agree with your general considerations regarding the trend of the entire industry towards "pretty beats functional", I think their decision to sell Liquavista made business sense.
That tech, if it does make it to production, could work in color ereaders, OLPC-style computers/tablets, maybe large outdoor display/advertising if they can produce big enough surfaces.
There is no way you could come to the "unwashed" masses after generations of "retina" displays and say: Look, we have SVGA, but the good news is you can read on the beach!" Look around you, people have already accepted they can pay a shitload of money to stare at their reflection AND their facebook profile at the same time 🙂

Nate Hoffelder May 22, 2013 um 8:14 am

Now the sale might make business sense, but when I first broke the rumor in January everyone thought I was crazy. After all, Samsung could just as easily have made and sold the screens to Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder May 23, 2013 um 9:24 pm

And BTW, I’m at SID Display Week right now, and I’ve met people in the screen tech industry who still don’t understand why the sale happened.

Javi May 22, 2013 um 4:26 am

Liquavista may not offer the quality of an LCD or OLED, but is more than enough for a ereader. I’m sick of reading magazines on paper. To see if amazon put the batteries and offers Liquavista suddenly a large screen ereader

flo May 23, 2013 um 4:02 pm

Sorry, but: 1. The image doesn’t prove anything. I don’t get the logic here. Just because Samsung isn’t presenting the liquavista screen doesn’t mean it’s regarded as bad, right? Maybe it only means that it has been sold to another firm …

2. I also don’t get why calling an oled screen green makes liquavista bad.

3. The image doesn’t prove liquavista can’t get higher resolutions. Do you have any sources for this claim? Liquavista can be backlit as well, so vivid colors shouldn’t be the problem right?

4. I respect your opinion that liquavista screens are not as hiqh quality as others. But for me, low power and sun / reflective readability are the most important aspects of a tablet screen, so for me liquavista seems to the highest quality it can get for the moment.

Nate Hoffelder May 23, 2013 um 4:31 pm

I think you may be reading stuff into the post that I didn’t write. Where did I say that Liquavista’s screen tech was bad? The worst thing you can hold against me is writing that Liquavista’s screen tech is less pretty but more functional. I do not see how that translates to bad.

My only intent was to point out that Liquavista doesn’t serve Samsung’s purposes anymore. That is why I think it was sold.

flo June 9, 2013 um 12:17 pm

You wrote: "The thing is, Liquavista can’t offer a similar high quality, high resolution screen." That’s what made me think it’s "bad".

If your "intent was to point out that Liquavista doesn’t serve Samsung’s purposes anymore" then the headline of this article is, at least, misleading because it promises to give a reason, why Samsung sold Liquavista. Samsung sold Liquavista, so it’s a no brainer that it doesn’t serve its purposes anymore. But I still think we don’t know, why exactly they sold it.

Anyways, maybe I am a little bit too fussy here..

Javi May 24, 2013 um 6:27 am

I hope we’ll see a Kindle Liquavista at 2014… I hope we do not have to wait much longer

Filip May 27, 2013 um 6:44 am

I would choose a liguavista sceen anyday over OLED or LCD. The functionality to use a screen outdoor & for 2x the duration time overweights quality anyday. What point is it ta have a tablet where you cant use it when use take coffea at your local coffeashop.

Amazon will most likely switch their Fire Tablet to Liquavista displays and keep eink on the readers (eink battery life is still 6x better for static reading)

Nate Hoffelder May 27, 2013 um 7:52 am

Before I would choose a device with a Liquavista screen I would make sure that the rest of the design is also as effective at conserving power.

While I agree with you in principal I also know that the device you pick had better also have a good overall hardware design. There’s more to saving power than using a low-power screen, and if the rest of the hardware design is not careful about conserving power then the screen may not matter much.

One example of this would be the devices built by Irex. This ereader maker’s first device, the Iliad, had a poor hardware design and poor software that negated any potential power-savings from the E-ink screen.

jbt May 31, 2013 um 4:42 pm

Because Amazon is tied to e-Ink Holdings, one would think that they would stick with the Triton 2 color tech from them. Sony needed a jumpstart in the eReader market as they are getting far behind (they don’t have HD e-Ink, High Speed Ink system or front-lit eReaders) in terms of innovation. They used to be the frontrunner when it comes to leading edge tech. So I thought it would be appropriate for them to purchase Liquavista from Samsung. But I guess Samsung would never sell to a Japanese competitor. Liquavista would have been the much needed kickstarter to put Sony back in the forefront since there are no major company doing a color eReader in the US. As usual, they are always too slow to jump the gun. Now Amazon owns Liquavista and competitors need to look elsewhere.

Triton2 and Mirasol displays came up short so I doubt Sony, B&N or Kobo would even adopt their tech. Their only recourse is to buy Gamma Dynamics with their Electrofluidics display or Nemoptics with their Bistable Nematics display.

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2013 um 5:50 pm

I’m sure Amazon considered a color E-ink screen but the low resolution and poor color options probably killed the idea.

WvR June 30, 2013 um 6:30 am

Hm, I can tell you that the resolution for Liquavista displays can be tripled easely. In conventional displays RGB pixels sit next to eachother, while Liquavista can place the RGB-pixels BEHIND eachother, (their displays are transluscent).

hatchet harry March 16, 2014 um 8:35 am

So you’re saying a layup like:


As far as Liquivista explain it, their on/off for a pixel works by obscuring it with "black oil" with a filter providing the colour –
I.e. they don’t use coloured oil as the filter, they use black oil to obscure unwanted colours and keep the screen as an "additive" (RGB) display.

If you use coloured oil as the filter with a back-reflector, you cannot produce black (R+G+B=white) in the display without adding another layer to every pixel (reducing contrast). Moreover, if you stack the pixels in this model with electro-wetting you get 2 ways to create white (all colours off= white /all colours on =dimmer white and get a loss of contrast compared to what Liquivista outlined.

If you use reflective coloured oil, rather that a back-reflector, you can’t stack the pixels at all as when you switch the top colour on, the other 2 are obscured, so no stacking. Plus you still need to be able to create "black", though overlaying a high-res mono LCD matrix would work pretty well for that as you’d end up with a brightness control for every R, G and B pixel.

WvR June 20, 2014 um 12:59 pm

No, it´s like this: the colours used are complementary to R G B, thus Cyaan, Yellow, Magenta and Black (CYMK). I got it wrong in my first message 30 june.
For instance, if you want to make green, then the layers yellow and cyaan must be on (=no power to those pixels).
It´s like mixing paint.
I hope this explains it a bit.
(Sorry for my late reply, but i´ve been to hospital for the last 10 months)

hatchet harry March 16, 2014 um 8:44 am

P.s. the Liquivista proposal (according to their website) is:

R | G | B colour filters
…..|—|— black oil switch sub pixels black/their own colour

The above would mean only red was reflected as the G/B are absorbed by the black on their own sub pixels and blocked by the red filter on the red sub pixel.

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