The Consumer Electronics Show is always full of surprises, and one of them this year was a pre-production smartphone with a color e-ink screen from Hisense. While Stephen wasn't convinced of the device's usability during a hands-on demo, Hisense doesn't seem to be the only company working on an e-ink phone.
You may remember Onyx from a few years ago, when the company showed off an e-ink smartphone prototype powered by Android. That turned into the Onyx E430 (also called the E43, E45, Barcelona, Midia, and other names), but its production run was extremely limited. According to one account, the finished product used "bogus IMEI numbers," which made them unusable on cellular networks — usually a deal-breaker for a cell phone.
Onyx's previous e-ink phone
Onyx apparently hasn't given up, as it came to CES 2020 with yet another prototype of an e-ink smartphone. There's no name, or even a finalized specifications sheet, but Notebook Italia shared some details in the site's hands-on coverage.
The phone has an unspecified "ARM-based octa-core SoC," a fingerprint reader, a USB Type-C port for charging, support for Wi-Fi/4G/LTE/Bluetooth, and a 5.8" e-ink screen. On the software side, it has Android 9.0 Pie, apparently with the Play Store — though it remains unclear if Google would give Play Services certification to such a device.
The new Onyx phone
The slow refresh rate is the main problem with using an e-ink screen on a smartphone, so the Onyx prototype has four refresh speeds: Normal Mode, Speed Mode, A2 Mode, and X Mode. Unfortunately, the hands-on video doesn't show the different refresh rates in action.
No pricing or release information is known yet. I'll be interested to see if it ever comes out — even if the device turns out to be nearly unusable, it would still make for an interesting novelty.
- Notebook Italia