Improved popSlate Moves Towards Commercialization

The second generation of the popSlate (Palo Alto, CA) iPhone shell is moving towards commercialization. Just like the first generation product launched last year, the principle function of the new shell is to act as a second, low power display on the back of the iPhone.

The popSlate is attached to the iPhone by sliding the shell onto the iPhone and connecting it to the Lightning connector. The user then downloads the popSlate app from the App Store. Doing do provides the user with set up directions. Once properly installed, the user will be able to use the app to locate, create and customize the content presented on the popSlate display.

The second generation shell comes in more sizes than the first including versions for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and 6s Plus. The company also reports working on prototypes that are compatible with other devices.

The iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus will have a 4.7” e-ink ePaper display and the 6 and 6S will have a 4.3” display. The popSlate display has a resolution of 800 x 450 at 200 dpi. It presents a black and white image with 6-bit greyscale. The ePaper display in the new popSlate not only smoothly joins the case surface but is also curved around the edges. Since the e-ink display is constructed from plastic materials, it is shatterproof.

The second generation shell addresses some of the deficiencies of the first generation product as well as providing several additional features.

First, the latest popSlate is thinner, adding just 4mm to the thickness of the iPhone. In addition, since the new popSlate connects to the iPhone’s Lightning connector, a single cable can be used to simultaneously charge both the iPhone and shell. The new shell has a larger battery than that used in the Gen one shell and has the added ability to be drawn upon as a power source for the iPhone. With normal use, the popSlate battery can be used to add up to nine additional hours of telephone time and five additional hours of internet time to the iPhone 6S Plus. Used on the iPhone 6S, the battery can add six additional hours of telephone time and four additional hours of internet time. Furthermore, by transferring tasks from the iPhone’s display to popSlate’s low power e-ink display, additional power savings may be possible thus further extending the time that the iPhone can run before the batteries need to be recharged.

The e-ink display in the new shell is positioned above three capacitive buttons. Two of these are for navigation. The third is used to switch between up to five different apps that can run simultaneously.

Before commenting on apps, it should be noted that the popSlate display is not intended to show the same imagery as presented on iPhone display. Rather, it is intended to present content that is complementary. Also of note is the fact that, since the Gen 2 popSlate uses a Lightning connection, the transfer times between the iPhone and the shell have been greatly reduced.

A video illustrating the popSlate in operation can be found at the end of this article.

At this time, a dashboard has user selectable widgets linking to a variety of applications, including notifications, calendars and weather. There are also apps for clocks and a news reader that pulls in content from user designated sources.

Other apps can be used to have the popSlate display present a variety of lists. Items on these lists can be “check off” using the capacitive buttons rather than having to unlock the iPhone.

Another important feature of the popSlate e-ink display is that it is scannable. It is, therefore, suitable for barcode and QR code based transactions such as boarding passes, tickets and membership cards.

Finally, there is an ereader app. At product launch, this app will only be compatible with open standard ebooks, such as those available from Project Gutenberg.

The main part of the popSlate shell is available in black or white. The side trim is available in clear and translucent smoke. More color options are planned for the future.

popSlate has turned to crowdfunding to kick off product production. The campaign can be found here. At this time, $334,400 has been raised from 4,145 backers towards a goal of $75,000. There is still about a month left in the campaign.

With funding apparently assured, the shell is planned to begin shipping in July. Final retail pricing is expected to be $129 for the iPhone 6s and $149 for the 6s Plus. The popSlate will come with a one year limited warranty.

Having successfully addressed many of the issues encountered in the Gen one popSlate shell and having added what appears to be worthwhile new features, it would seem that the Gen two popSlate product has a good chance of being a commercial success. We shall see. -Arthur Berman