So what pico-projectors have we seen at MWC? Samsung launching an incredible-looking Galaxy Beam, STMicroElectronics showing the fruits of their partnership with BTendo, and a start-up called Aiptek showing two new products for iPhones and soon for Android phones, one of which uses a Texas Instruments projection component.
The first is the biggest news because it's hitting market soon - the Samsung Galaxy Beam. The Beam feels great and seems to work well, given that Samsung is demo'ing the Beam in a dark room. The projector spec's are impressive although not perfect - QHD resolution produces good images of both stills and video, and 3 hours of battery life while projecting is great. The phone can project screens from apps as well as directly projecting the image from the camera. The 15 lumens projector power is good for a dark room but not for a light room, but presumably that's what enables them to give three hours of battery life. Other than the projector, the phone is not quite as powerful as a Galaxy S2 but stronger than a Galaxy S1.
MWC attendees can can see the Galaxy Beam at the back of the Samsung area in hall 8.
The STMicroElectronics prototype shows the results of their partnership with BTendo. The component itself uses BTendo projection technology and STMicroElectronics MEMS technology. The prototype shows the projector in action as a distinct device, but their target is to have the component embedded into cellphones and other devices.
Their specs are similar to those of the Galaxy Beam. They're targeting 12-15 Lumens, and resolution anywhere from SVGA up to WXG.
This component could be the way that other cellphone makers will catch up to Samsung. MWC attendees can see this at the STMicroElectronics booth at 7C18.
The final projector I saw at MWC is a new series of products from a start-up comnpany called Aiptek, from Taiwan. The company has two iPhone projectors just being launched, one a sleeve and one a plug-in "dongle" device. They plan to launch both for Android phones in June.
The Aiptek devices are different in more than their form factor. The sleeve device uses projector technology from Texas Instruments, and projects 50 Lumens at 640x480 resolution. This much-improved projection power means that the device can be used in full light. The dongle device uses other projection technology, and projects at only 15 Lumens (like the competing devices described above), at 960x540 resolution. Both can reportedly run 1.5 hours on a battery charge.
The Aiptek projectors can be seen by MWC participants at booth 2J18. Tell them you read about them in the Grizzly Analytics blog!
Which of these pico-projectors is best? Impossible to say, because they all deliver different trade-offs in resolution, brightness, and battery life. The STMicroElectronics component is not a delivered project that can even be measured and compared.
The real question is what people want. Embedded is clearly better than a separate unit, but what will people think of a sleeve device that can be carried and used as part of the phone itself? Do people want to project in daylight or in the dark? What resolution is needed for the device to be useful and fun?
More importantly, what will people do with a cellphone projector? For me it's showing pictures to my smaller children, and maybe watching a movie as a family. For kids it will likely be big-screen phone gaming. What else would people use a phone projector for?
Stay tuned to see how this develops, or go buy a Galaxy Beam or a Aiptek device when they reach market!