Motorola has been showing off electronic paper screened mobiles for the developing market at this year's 3GSM conference in Barcelona.
The Motofone F3 handset uses the technology and is being sold exclusively to the Indian market in an effort to bring more of the world's developing nations online via their mobile phones.
The electronic paper screen uses a tiny amount of power giving the mobile a claimed 12-day battery life, something that is vital where power supplies are intermittent.
"The whole phone is designed so that someone unfamiliar with mobile technology, or even someone who's illiterate, can use it," said Nicholas Demassieux, a Fellow at Motorola's broadband research department.
"There are only 800 million PCs in the world so the developing world will almost certainly use mobile handsets to access the internet. It is devices like this that will bring developing nations into the Internet age."
The e-paper screen uses a layer of bi-coloured balls, one white and the other dark grey. These can be rotated to form screen images, but use no power at all while not in rotation, giving phenomenal battery life.
The phone can be configured for voice commands only, and can be set up to display the user's balance after each call so that finances can be closely monitored.
Motorola's phone is dust and scratch resistant but is also stylishly designed and less than a centimetre thick.
The company explained that the purchase price could be as high as a month's wages for some people, and that users want something that works well but looks good for that kind of money.
Demassieux told vnunet.com that his aim is to use devices like this, and WiMax technology, to cut the cost of mobile Internet access by a factor of 10 over the next decade.
This would be the only way for the developing world to join the online community, he believes.
Motorola's whole production run is being saved for the Indian market. While they will be easy to sell in developed nations, the subcontinent needs them more, according to Demassieux.
Motorola promised other e-paper screen phones in European markets at a later date.
Motorola unveils e-paper mobile screens
By Iain Thomson on Feb 15, 2007 9:50AM