updated 03:30 pm EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Campaign funds a second low power screen for Android devices
It's time for Thursday's edition of Crowdfunding Critic. Every Tuesday and Thursday here on MacNN and Electronista, we're going to look at crowd-funded projects that we find interesting. Keep in mind that we aren't specifically endorsing anything, or telling you that there aren't any risks in funding a prospective project, we're just pointing out projects we found that we like. Please do your research before investing! Today's selection brings an underused technology, E-ink, to smartphone cases -- the InkCase Plus by Oaxis.
If the InkCase Plus concept seems familiar, that's because the InkCase first shipped nearly a year ago in a lesser form for the iPhone 5, 5s and Samsung Galaxy Note II. The new project differs in some crucial ways, primarily in the loading of apps to enhance the display beyond just simple notifications from the phone through a custom app.
The InkCase Plus is a remote screen for your smartphone, connected to the device with Bluetooth v2.1. An aluminum alloy frame brackets the screen, with a hardened screen to protect the device from damage. Developers can use the standard Android SDK with the InkCase SDK & API to develop anything they want for the low-power second screen.
The screen is a 3.5-inch, 360x600 display, capable of displaying 16 shades of gray in a 45g (1.5 ounce) package. The InkCase Plus has its own battery, proving 500mAh of power, which the company claims can drive the screen for 19 hours of constant use -- as the screen doesn't draw any power when not being updated, this number may be even higher in practice. The screen requires Android 4.0 and above, but the developer recommends Android 4.3 for best use.
Caveats for the program include limited case support -- the "FitCase," designed to hold the phone and InkCase Plus together (which is not required for use), is currently only available for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 3. Users were asked to vote for what models of phone that the company should work on FitCases for -- the Galaxy Note II, the Nexus 5, the Galaxy S4, and both the M7 and M8 HTC One phones were selected by voters.
Funding for the InkCase Plus was achieved some time ago. Plus, development was started on the project well before the Kickstarter was launched. Mass production is slated to begin in September, with shipment to backers commencing in October.
Clearly, we'd like to see this functionality for iOS, but we don't think Apple would like it very much. The original InkCase for the iPhone 5 is good at what it does, but the disconnect between the app and the screen is jarring. This isn't the fault of the developer, but rather of Apple. As it stands, the InkCase Plus is likely a boon for road warriors and avid readers away from a plug where every milliamp of power counts.