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New Samsung patent points to a phone case with a built-in E Ink screen

Samsung’s next smartphone accessory might serve double duty as a secondary screen. A patent application submitted to the Korean Intellectual Property Office by the Seoul, South Korea-based company describes a phone case with an E Ink display.

It’s a new Flip Cover, seemingly the latest in Samsung’s first-party line of smartphone cases. But unlike the current line of Flip Covers, which feature cutout slots and transparent front panels that allow users to view content like notifications, dates and times, and other content, the patent describes a case equipped with a secondary display.

An image included in the filing shows a Flip Cover with the standard cutout and a larger window housing the E Ink screen. It doesn’t suggest what said screen might show, exactly, but logic dictates it’s relegated to static content like incoming text messages and reminders — E Ink screens are notoriously poor at animating smoothly.

It’s likely similar in execution to the Oaxis InkCase for iOS and Android devices, which packs an E Ink display that’s powered with a magnetic charger. It connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and displays ebooks, notifications, emails, and other forms of content via a monochrome display that consumes a fraction of the energy as the full-color display on most smartphones.

The idea is hardly a new one. Way back in 2013, Alcatel, Pocketbook, and others demoed smartphone flip covers with E Ink displays that served as low-power conduits for updates, widgets, weather details, ebooks, and articles. Some early prototypes even co-opted paired phones’ volume controls as readily accessible page-forward and page-back buttons.

In the intervening years, smartphone makers have taken an alternative approach: Integrating E Ink displays into the devices themselves. The Oukitel U6 sports a 4.7-inch display that mirrors certain apps and widgets. And the YotaPhone 2 boasts a display that shows battery percentage, the time, weather, calendars, and other screens.

It’s unclear just when Samsung’s take on E Ink might emerge from the company’s skunkworks, but the company’s historically launched new accessories alongside new flagship smartphones. That’s not to suggest the E Ink Flip Cover will make a debut around the same time as the Galaxy S8 in the coming weeks, but there’s a good chance it could.

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