ONYX Previews Upcoming E-Ink Smartphone At CES 2020

CES 2020 has come and gone but announcements from the event are still surfacing and among those is a new E-Ink device from a company called ONYX. The as-yet-unnamed device is not well-defined as of this writing. In fact, the company reportedly has three base models it is currently working on. At the center of the design is an E-Ink display, a technology popularized by Kindle devices.

What has been revealed about this device?

ONYX hopes to improve its chances with the unnamed E-Ink device by including more capable hardware and taking advantage of improvements in E-Ink technology. The final hardware has not been decided but the company is reportedly leaning toward a few specifics in that area.

The biggest change from its previous attempts to release an E-Ink device will likely be the inclusion of the Google Play Store. That wasn’t included in previous attempts but the previously used proprietary E-Ink app store will be making its return too.

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The device will be a 5.8-inch handset, equipped with a front-light for use at night and variable brightness and contrast settings for day-time usage. Glass will be used over the front to prevent damage to the display but the type hasn’t been specified. For improved video and web browsing, the company is including three modes of use that gradually increase the screens refresh rate. Those are Normal, Speed, A2, and X modes.

The company is also leaning toward and ARM-based octa-core SoC with an unspecified level of storage and memory. The use of ARM will make working with the Google Play Store easier, as will the use of Android 9 Pie — depending on the release time frame Android 10 may be used instead. But there are a total of three separate processor solutions being considered for the time being.

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The use of an octa-core chipset should also put this phone in the mid-range to premium category.

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A dual-purpose dual-SIM slot will allow for mobile connectivity or storage expansion. The device will run on Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and will be able to connect via Bluetooth to accessories.

Why is ONYX using an E-Ink display?

E-Ink displays are popular for a variety of reasons and became popular with e-readers for the same. Namely, the technology allows a paper-and-ink-like appearance for the display. That saves users a good deal of eye-strain. It also saves an enormous amount of energy, enabling devices that last for weeks instead of days without much change to battery size.

There are a few drawbacks related to display ghosting — displayed graphics seeming to fade rather than a more direct shift in a snappy manner. And the lack of colors can be disconcerting to some, although solutions to that are in the works. Advantages in battery life, performance efficiency, and pricing are obvious benefits that could easily suit the budget and mid-range smartphone markets.

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Those are undoubtedly the same reasons ONYX has chosen E-Ink for its next device announcement at CES 2020. But the company has attempted E-Ink devices in the past, as had another company called Yotaphone, without much success.

Other aspects of the build are readily revealed in tentative images revealed at the mobile event. ONYX has chosen a black polycarbonate backing and frame as opposed to metal. There’s a fingerprint reader on the rear, set next to a camera with an unknown megapixel rating. USB-C will be used for charging.

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The design itself is fairly modern-looking, aside from the use of an E-Ink panel. In the revealed images and video, that does seem to function smoothly and it has a decidedly clean and minimal look to it that will undoubtedly appeal to many users. The bezels are larger than might be expected though. That will likely detract from the appeal for a larger subset of potential buyers.

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Pricing and availability

As noted above, ONYX hasn’t finalized every design or internal specification just yet. That also means that no pricing or availability details have been revealed for the upcoming ONYX E-Ink smartphone. More details are expected to be forthcoming over the next few weeks.


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