Readius’ 5-inch screen folds out when you want to read e-mail or news

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A Dutch company has squeezed a display the size of two business cards into a cellphone no bigger than other mobile phones — by making a screen that folds up when not in use.

The 5-inch display of Polymer Vision’s Readius is the world’s first that folds out when the user wants to read news, blogs or e-mail and folds back together so that the device can fit into a pocket.

Polymer Vision, spun off from electronics-maker Philips, whetted the appetite of gadget fans more than two years ago when it showed off a prototype. Now, Readius is in production and will go head-to-head with Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Amazon’s (AMZN) e-book reader, Kindle, when it hits stores in mid-2008.

“You get the large display of e-reading, the super battery life of e-reading, and the high-end connectivity … and the form factor and weight of a mobile phone,” said Karl McGoldrick, chief executive of Polymer Vision. Philips still has a 25% stake in the venture-capital-funded firm.

“We are taking e-reading and bringing it to the mobile phone,” he said.

McGoldrick would not say how much the Readius would cost, but said it will be comparable to a high-end cellphone.

McGoldrick said his “dream device,” which the company planned to build within five years, is a cellphone with an 8-inch color display that could show video.

Like Amazon’s Kindle, the Readius has a so-called electronic paper screen, which displays black-and-white text and images that look almost as if they’ve been printed on paper.

The device — which will also just make phone calls — connects to the Internet using the third-generation cellphone networks with high data speeds.

The company said it is talking to retailers as well as cellphone carriers to sell Readius.

Like Apple’s iPhone, the Readius offers the chance for cellphone carriers to boost data usage, which is more profitable than voice calls.

People will be able to set up their e-mail accounts, news sources, podcasts, audio books and blog feeds at home on their computers, and the data are then pushed to the Readius whenever it is updated.

McGoldrick said the company opted to use this approach — which rules out quickly browsing the Web on the go — because it is simpler in a mobile environment.

“I see these devices with 50 buttons on them. We have eight,” he said, adding that the company plans to add a keypad to future models.


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