E-ink Reader Doubles as Phone, Touts Extra-long Battery Life


While smartphone technology continues to progress at breakneck speed, one area where customers are constantly left wanting is battery life. As phones get more powerful, the batteries powering these pocket computers struggle to keep up. If you’re an avid texter, use the camera frequently throughout the day, or send a lot of emails, you can be almost sure your smartphone isn’t going to last the day, regardless of make or model. Is the InkPhone the answer to all your problems?

CeBit kicks off in Germany today, and while the conference is mostly dedicated to big data and IT business in general, there is also some consumer tech on the show floor, including the InkPhone. This is a phone that uses e-ink as its primary display. Produced by Chinese ereader maker Onyx, the InkPhone is actually more ereader than smartphone. The company set out to make a budget phone/ereader combo. As a result, it’s not the most high-end device you’ll come across (certainly nowhere near the dual-screened YotaPhone), and you won’t be able to download your favorite Android applications after you buy the phone. Instead, you’ll have ereader functionality (of course) as well as the ability to make phone calls, browse the web, send emails, listen to music, and send messages, all on an 1800 mAh battery that promises to last two weeks.

Specs-wise, you’re looking at a 1 GHz processor (it’s a Rockchip SoC but we don’t know which one), 4 GB of internal storage, 512 MB of RAM, MicroSD support, and that 4.3-inch front-lit e-ink display. Again, definitely very low-end specs compared to other flagship phones available today, but that’s not the intention. This is supposed to be a low-end phone that goes forever, which means it would be great for those who often forget to charge their phones (older people and children) or those in the developing markets where charging your phone before you go to bed every night often isn’t an option. What we don’t understand is why the display is so small. Surely, if this is supposed to be an e-reader that doubles as a phone, the screen should be large enough to comfortably read text for extended periods of time.

One thing is certain: this is vastly different from the e-ink phone that was making headlines in February. Yota Devices’ YotaPhone made a big splash at MWC last month. With its secondary touch-sensitive e-ink display for displaying notifications, news, weather and more, the device aims to save on power by relegating these ‘always on’ functions and casual browsing to the rear display. That way, you don’t have to constantly wake the phone to check for messages or peek at the weather, and you can switch to using the rear-display for email and the like if you’re running low on battery. You can also use the rear of the phone as an ereader, in case you were wondering.

Of course, the Yota Phone with its higher specs and added functionality costs quite a bit more. The first generation (which uses a regular e-ink display instead of the touch-sensitive variety) is priced in excess of $600. The InkPhone goes on sale in Europe in April and will cost under $200.




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