Meet the Next iPhone Killer: the 'PaperPhone'

By Beecher Tuttle May 06, 2011

The future of smartphones will exist in the form of a thin, flexible electronic piece of paper, says Roel Vertegaal, the director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab.

Vertegaal and his colleagues are set to unveil a new prototype mobile device that he believes will revolutionize the personal electronics market. The e-paper technology, dubbed the PaperPhone, is exactly what you would imagine: a super-thin, bendable and interactive film that makes phone calls, plays music and stores e-books, among other things.

“This is not a maybe. This is a definite,” Vertegaal told ABC News. “This is what your phone will look like.”

The prototype device is made of an E Ink display that measures 3.7 inches, with the thickness of just a bit more than a leaf of paper. If the PaperPhone is the future of the mobile device space, consumers better get used to a new style of functionality. Unlike traditional handsets or tablets, the PaperPhone is not controlled with buttons and touchscreen controls. Instead, users will need to flex, fold and bend the device to open an application or navigate through a contacts list. A stylus pen can also be used to write on the screen.

What’s more, users won’t need to worry about the fragility of the futuristic phone. “It’s very robust,” says Vertegaal, “you can hit it with a hammer.”

He says that the current prototype costs around $7,000 to manufacture, but could be cheaply mass produced at some point in the future. Although admitting that the technology is five to 10 years away from becoming viable, Vertegaal believes his prototype will eventually become the true iPhone killer.

“This is definitely going to replace the iPhone, there’s no doubt about that,” he told ABC News. “But it only happens when Apple thinks it can make a profit.”

The prototype device isn’t only meant to replace the traditional mobile phone, Vertegaal adds. “It’s a replacement for the computer as we know it, it’s going to change everything,” he told The Canadian Press.

Vertegaal and his colleagues from the Human Media Lab and Arizona State University’s Motivational Environments Research group will be showing off the PaperPhone at the Computer Human Interaction conference in Vancouver on May 10.

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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