The YotaPhone is an awesome idea. If you haven’t heard of it, the unique handset packs both a low-power E Ink screen (typically found on ebook readers), as well as a regular high-definition display. The benefits of this, which we’ll get into below, are clear. But as Gizmag reports, there may be a much better option. What if you could just buy a phone cover or case with a built-in E Ink screen? An optional battery-saving display could mean all the gain and none of the pain.
Lucky for us, these covers seem to be a growing trend in the mobile world. At IFA this year, E Ink (the company that makes the screens on your Kindle) showed off phone covers that turn your phone into an ebook reader. PocketBook’s CoverReader (seen below) works with the Galaxy S4 and has an E Ink screen on the inside of it. Alcatel’s E Ink Cover (seen above) is even better. It has an E Ink screen on the front, and covers up the normal GS4 screen. Using a specially designed app designed, the phone can send text to the E Ink display and switch the normal screen off, saving boatloads of battery life, letting you read on a screen that won’t hurt your eyes and is easily viewable in direct sunlight. The GS4’s volume controls will turn the page forward or back for you. It’s almost as good as a regular ebook reader experience, and the screen isn’t much smaller than one either.
Though ebook readers like the Kindle Paperwhite seem to be losing steam in terms of popularity, they have clear cut benefits that almost everyone should want in their life. Devices with E Ink screens can last up to two months (as opposed to 10 hours for a typical phone or tablet) without a recharge, and they resemble real paper. The downside is that they aren’t yet good for displaying color and they refresh slowly, meaning it’s impossible to watch videos or do things quickly on them.
Now, imagine an iPad or Android tablet with cover on it that could turn its entire 7-10 inch display into an ebook reader. It would be the best of both worlds. The E Ink screen could display notes, notifications, airline tickets, a clock, text of any kind, and many other things for you – even if your phone battery dies.
We don’t yet know pricing for products like these. They would need to be cheaper than a $100 Kindle to be remotely worth it. And to really make them work, Google and Apple would need to build in support for them into their operating systems, Android and iOS, so that every ebook-reading app could take advantage of them.
It will still be a little while before we get to this point, but it’s worth getting excited about. E Ink displays are getting so cheap that they may start invading territory owned by traditional paper, like price tags in your local supermarket.
If the market trends continue down their current path, you may not be able to buy ebook readers in the future, but you may still get their benefits in new ways.