Smartphones – The original InkCase product developed by Oaxis Inc. (North American office is in City of Industry, CA) was an E Ink type display that could be mounted on the back of a smartphone. In this configuration, the user was required to utilize either the smartphone screen or the InkCase screen. Based on the success of a recent Kickstarter campaign, Oaxis has now announced a second generation device called the InkCase Plus.
Features of InkCase Plus include the following:
Because the screen is an E Ink type display, the image is always on. Power is only needed when turning to a new page but no power is consumed by the display while presenting a page. In addition, the InkCase Plus uses low power Bluetooth technology to send information on-demand, also extending battery life. In fact, the 500mAh lithium polymer battery allows about seven days of standby time, 3,400 pages of reading or 19 hours of continuous operation with a single charge. The clear message here is that the addition of the second screen does not put an undue power consumption burden on the smartphone battery.
On the down side, the E Ink display is monochrome. The company suggests, however, that this is not much of a limitation in the intended uses of the InkCase Plus display in that most of the text in emails, messages and news is in black and white. On the up side, this type of display is particularly legible in bright sunlight.
The original InkCase product was designed to work only with a limited number of specific smartphones. The InkCase Plus, on the other hand, is basically just the screen component by itself. This means that it can, in principle, be fitted into any number of inexpensive shells to fit a variety of smartphone sizes.
The InkCase Plus can serve as a protective case when used with the so-called FitCase. FitCase is a leather case that is designed to hold the phone as well as the InkCase Plus. It rests on top of the smartphone’s standard display. One feature of this approach is that the screen can be flipped around to present a dual screen – thus successfully addressing a limitation of the original InkCase product.
At this time, there are only a limited number of basic apps built for the device that can be used without the need to turn on a handset’s battery utilizing LCD. These are a “transfer photo” app, an ereader app and a bike computer app. The device can also receive notifications and control music playback. It is also possible to pick up incoming calls and end calls directly with InkCase Plus. The external speaker can be turned on from the InkCase Plus after a call is picked up.
With the APIs in the SDK and the InkCase Plus Companion Apps, the company hopes that developers can utilize existing resources to create new applications. More information on the development of applications can be found here.
The original InkCase product seems to have been commercially successful. The Kickstarter campaign for the InkCase Plus was definitely successful. Time will tell if the InkCase Plus is also a success. – Arthur Berman