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Putting the cell phone screen on a diet

Making the LCD less of an energy hog

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The biggest battery hog in your mobile phone is the screen, especially if it's a thin-film transistor liquid crystal display. (That's TFT-LCD, for the acronym loyalists out there.) Many of the companies gathered for iSuppli's Flat Information Displays Conference 2006 here are looking for ways around this. Some say that means using a different technology for the screen; others say there's no need to do so.

LG.Philips LCD mobile displayusing PenTile technology
Erica Ogg/CNET Networks

A company called Clairvoyante has come up with a different way to render pixels to save power, increase brightness and resolution and be able to show video at wide viewing angles, while continuing to use LCD technology.

PenTile RGBW technology has a high image resolution created by using a chip that allows the sub-pixels that make up each pixel in an LCD display to show up on the screen, creating a more detailed image. (RGBW stands for the pixel colors used: red, green, blue and white.)

By using white in addition to the standard pixel colors, more light is allowed to pass through, and the display is brighter without requiring any additional power, said Joel Pollack, CEO of Clairvoyante. It's what industry types call a "non-disruptive technology" because implementing PenTile in mobile displays doesn't require a whole new manufacturing process. Instead, it works in the context of the most popular technology, the TFT-LCD display.

The benefit to consumers will be better video quality, Pollack said. "Video requires a dramatically larger dynamic range. You need two to three times the luminance" for video than is needed for other display applications, like viewing e-mail. More than a dozen companies have licensed the technology and are using it in their own displays, including LG.Philips LCD and Samsung SDI.