For devices that run on a battery, the screen is the component that drains the the battery the most. So I began to wonder if there is an alternative.

Has someone ever tried another type of interface than one that requires a screen? If so, can you provide an example?

For the purpose of the question i'm regarding a CLI (Command Line Interface) as a GUI (Graphical User Interface) since it still uses a screen.

  • Most phones handle voice commands down. – DA01 Jul 9 '15 at 14:59
  • It is working poorly. Not the main system of interface and is supported by few apps to it. – Frozendragon Jul 9 '15 at 15:01
  • I feel like this is going to be a hard question to answer without knowing what kind of device and what kind of application it needs to run. – DasBeasto Jul 9 '15 at 15:04
  • @Frozendragon I agree, but not sure what you're asking for, then. Are you asking for something viable for your needs? If so, then we need to know your needs. – DA01 Jul 9 '15 at 15:30
  • Many people have tried and evaluated many kinds of interface, but the touchscreen rates very high in general usability, because it enables unmediated interaction, i.e. (tactile) input and (visual) feedback happen on a single surface. Its power consumption can be reduced by using e-ink, for instance. There are scenarios that strongly favor hands-free interfaces, of course, or where the visual channel is already heavily occupied. Most mobile audio players (could) do without a display for playback control – they use buttons on the device or cable, a screen only for track/playlist selection. – Crissov Jul 10 '15 at 7:07

There are lots of alternative interfaces

Variety of interfaces

Thanks to the minaturization of technologies there are a lot of alternative interfaces to the high-power LED/LCD/OLED screen in the markeet already.

  • Voice input and input. The Amazon Echo device has a voice input/output interface capable of performing a lot of different tasks for users in a hands-free manner.

  • Electronic paper have several models using electronic paper, which can have dramatically lower power consumption (depending on how they are implemented) than traditional active displays. Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is a prominent example of this itnerface, but several wearables (Pebble, Fitbit etc) also use this technology to extend battery life. My Pebble watch lasts about 6 days without charging.

  • Vibration is used by many devices such as the Fitbit One and obviously cellphones too. While it's typically used for alerts, vibrations can also provide tactile feedback and can be used for input too (e.g. shake to dismiss interaction).

  • Movement is famously used by the Xbox Kinect product.

  • Tactile interfaces are usually used for input (touchscreens, buttons) but can also be used for output, as the Tactility Phone concept for blind people demonstrates.

  • Micro-displays used in Google Glass and other more daring approaches can consume very little battery life but still create very large effective displays.

The list goes on (sensors for gyroscopic, electrostatic, temperature, and other measurables can all be used to create specialized interfaces), but this hopefully provides a sampling of current commercial or near-commercial alternatives.


Sure. The Altair was programmed via switches, and the iPod shuffle also uses switches only. No screens in either case.


The Apple Watch interacts with its user via vibrations. And the user can interact with it via voice (though the screen is still active for voice input).

What I find interesting about the Apple Watch's interface is how it takes advantage of multiple interaction types, including, but not exclusively, screen.

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