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

By - Source: via Engadget | B 10 comments
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A two-week battery life in exchange for a Kindle-like display.

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. No word on U.S. availability but we'll keep you posted!

Follow Jane McEntegart @JaneMcEntegart. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 2 Hide
    rad666 , March 10, 2014 1:13 PM
    This could do well. It won't sell in the US, however, because it's not flashy enough with it's B&W screen, no matter how long the battery will last.
  • 0 Hide
    mouse24 , March 10, 2014 3:50 PM
    I'd personally buy this. If you could get it off a plan, with perhaps time cards, for under 100 bucks this would be amazing. I don't use phones that much I do however like to read books on the go, and kindles don't fit in your pocket as well as phones do.Its specs are pretty bad so I really don't think it should cost (speculative) around 175. Theres much better phones in that price range. Hell for that price you can get a better specced phone and a kindle.
  • 0 Hide
    Wild Biker Bill , March 10, 2014 4:01 PM
    Most everyone has bought into their fashionably thin phones which consequently have little battery and even less endurance. This won't fly in the USA precisely because it won't be able to shoot and display people's pictures and videos. And the folks who really value phone battery life probably have stuck with a non-smartphone.
  • Display all 10 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    torka , March 10, 2014 5:34 PM
    I am a firm believer that this is the future and I want it.
  • 0 Hide
    Darkk , March 10, 2014 9:05 PM
    Until they really solve the battery problem to give folks at least two weeks of battery life e-inks are way to go for reading books no matter how you slice it.Now what would be be cool is color e-inks that simulates the look of real paper. I thought Amazon was working on this a couple of years ago. The Kindle Fire is nice but still like to see it happen.
  • 0 Hide
    wabbster4 , March 11, 2014 6:23 AM
    There are many phones that will last all day and even 2 days. The LG G2 and the droid Maxx line come to mind.
  • 0 Hide
    JQB45 , March 11, 2014 7:24 AM
    Quote:
    There are many phones that will last all day and even 2 days. The LG G2 and the droid Maxx line come to mind.
    2 days is nothing compared to 2 weeksIs it possible to down vote the person responsible for writing these articles? In my opinion they spent to much time talking about the Yota Phone, perhaps the writer gets paid by the word?
  • 0 Hide
    gm0n3y , March 11, 2014 11:33 AM
    I would like to replace my current eReader with something like this. I already carry my eReader around anyway and having the ability to use it for non-multimedia phone tasks (email, talk, text) would be great. The screen would need to be bigger though.
  • 0 Hide
    hannibal , March 11, 2014 11:52 AM
    Interesting phone! Hopefully there will be phablet (note2 and note3) size versions of this! It would be better e-reader, offer bigger battery and even longer usage time! With pen, definitely useful notepad/phone/e-reader combination!
  • 0 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , March 11, 2014 1:51 PM
    Yes! This is what I have been waiting for!