Companies are taking various paths to improve the user interface (UI) of phones. Next week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Pelikon will show off its MorphPad and MorphTouch technologies for OEMs that want to make the most of the screen space.
Matt Wolk, vice president of strategy at MFLEX, which bought Pelikon back in December 2008, says it’s easier to see the technology in action rather than explaining it. Pelikon will be at stand 2C02 at the Fira de Barcelona.
But he took a stab at describing what Pelikon is up to. Basically, Pelikon’s technology allows for automatically reconfiguring on a handset – in either landscape or portrait modes – to reveal only the controls relevant to the user’s immediate task. For example, certain keys light up when someone is crafting e-mail. Another set lights up for someone who’s listening to music. The same goes for making a phone call, playing a game or browsing the Web.
Wolk says the lighting solution that Pelikon uses is visible in any light, including direct sunlight. It’s also “very low power” and meant to be complementary to a touch screen, he says. For example, if you’ve got a touch-screen device that has four buttons on the bottom, those buttons each could be configured to do, say, four more tasks when the phone is in a certain mode, like Web browsing or making a call.
“We can add functionality to give any company back that real estate on the screen and increase functionality on the product, so where one button is now, we might have four features on that button,” he says.
Wolk declined to put a firm cost on adding the technology to a product because there are too many variables in the manufacturing process and some parts are likely going to be replaced. Plus, the price an end-user would see depends in part on the OEM’s strategy and a carrier’s decision on how much to subsidize. But as a percentage of the bill of materials in a smartphone, the cost of adding Pelikon’s technology is low, he says.
As for operating systems, he says it doesn’t matter – Pelikon’s technology is agnostic and the same functionality can work on any OS.
Pelikon is based in Cambridge, England, known as a hotbed for display technologies. The first commercial product with MorphPad is a Toshiba eReader/cell phone that launched last July for the Japanese market.