Prototype E Ink Android phone puts your AMOLED screen to shame (but only in direct sunlight)

Onyx E Ink SmartphoneAs every owner knows only too well, smartphone screens are difficult to view in direct sunlight, and while pushing the brightness up to maximum can help, it doesn’t do wonders for the battery life.

Here’s an interesting solution to the problem from a company named Onyx International, a smartphone with an E Ink screen. Onyx has plenty of experience in the world of E Ink screens, as it produces the Boox series of e-readers. The handset is only a prototype at the moment, but you can see a working version in the video below, where its screen is compared to a Galaxy Nexus.

The result is spectacular, as the Nexus device just looks like it’s turned off the entire time, while the Onyx phone’s display is crisp and sharp, despite being viewed outdoors. This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has used an e-reader over the past few years, and the superior performance of an E Ink screen in sunlight formed the basis of a recent Amazon Kindle ad campaign.

Surprisingly, the Onyx phone runs Google Android, which has been extensively modified to run on a monochrome screen, but as you can see, the core functionality is still there. Because E Ink screens only take little sips of battery power, the standby time on the prototype is a week. Try that on any other smartphone.

There are, however, one or two little drawbacks. E Ink displays aren’t known for their speed, and sure enough the refresh rate is terribly slow, meaning any multimedia or gaming would be impossible. Viewing text webpages is good though.

While it’s an impressive technical feat and the use of an E Ink screen on a phone certainly has its benefits, the thought of enduring those long refresh times and not being able to do the things that almost all other smartphones can do, would probably make ownership too frustrating. After all, If I wanted a long standby time, a monochrome screen and little else, I’d buy a basic feature phone.

Take a look at the video showing the phone in action and see what you think.