The screens surround us. They also do it with increasingly amazing technology. Smart TVs trap us with OLED panels of all kinds, mobile phones amaze us with their new screens with great refresh rates and computer monitors surround us with impossible curves.
There is a technology that has lagged a bit behind, however. Electronic ink is probably the great forgotten In a world that would do well not to put it aside It is true that it is still an absolute protagonist in electronic book readers, but its evolution is much less remarkable. That does not matter, because despite everything and everyone, there are products that show that electronic ink is (or can be) fantastic.
When a mobile called Yotaphone showed me
the a future
I have been a user of an e-book reader for a few years, but before I even became one I had the opportunity to fiddle with an amazing product. It was the Yotaphone 2, a smartphone that had a double screen: on the one hand it was a “normal” mobile, but on the other It had – like its predecessor – an electronic ink screen.
That idea captured me. Bearing in mind that I was reading more and more on my mobile – I already mentioned that – having a device that I could use in a mixed way taking advantage of that technology to read seemed fantastic to me.
Unfortunately, the shadows of that product were superior to its lights. The Yotaphones ended up being abandoned and their success was very limited: the Financial Times claimed that only 75,000 units of the first two had been sold. The promised Yotaphone 3 didn’t even make it out of China.
A technology that seems to be cursed
And yet the idea seemed great. Like so many others that we have seen in a multitude of devices, in fact. E-ink seems to have some kind of curse on its shoulders (or pixels), because except for e-book readers, it has never succeeded in curdling in any other format.
There are many examples of products that took advantage of the virtues of electronic ink but for one reason or another never made it to the market. For example, him Sony FES Watch, a smartwatch that took advantage of that technology and in fact had a successor, the FES Watch U.
He was certainly not the first to try in that segment, and precisely it is difficult to speak of the Pebble as an unsuccessful productIt was the smartwatch that triggered the whole smartwatch phenomenon, and it did so with an electronic ink screen.
Then other variants would appear, but unfortunately Pebble was unable to maintain its success and interest and disappeared from the market at the hands of Fitbit, who ended up buying it for 35 (measly) million dollars and then killing it permanently.
The devices that begin to offer what is considered the great revolution in this technology have not had much luck either: color support. There are certainly advances like the one posed by the new E-Ink technology, but the first devices to hit the market have not been very successful.
Apart from those devices, there have been endless attempts to implement this technology in bicycle handlebars, wall clocks, keyboards, more keyboards, music scores for musicians, panels for bus stops or advertising posters on trucks. More or less ingenious ideas that in most cases have remained at that.
Despite the curse, there are those who keep trying
Despite that apparent curse, there are those who keep trying. The last great representative of that ambition is Lenovo, which in one of its latest laptops, the ThinkBook Plus 2 i, offers that concept of the Yotaphone but adapted to this convertible, which has a “normal” screen and then a back of electronic ink and large format. They tried it before with the flashy Yoga Book C930, but without much success.
Before that launch we have also seen eye-catching products like the Freewrite Traveler, a digital typewriter whose screen also makes use of electronic ink to avoid distractions for the writer. The concept is once unique, although the 121 x 70mm display is small for today’s canons.
In the field of mobility we may not have Yotaphone anymore, but the recently introduced HiSense A7 5G is especially notable for its 5G connectivity and for making exclusive use of an electronic ink screen 6.7 inch. It is not a smartphone designed to play games or watch video content, but it can be very interesting for those who especially read on their mobiles.
There are those who are trying from the field of collective financing. The example is in Inkplate 10, a 9.7-inch “recycled” electronic paper screen – which already had a 6-inch version – specially intended to be used with Arduino And that invites makers to take advantage of this technology, Waveshare offers something similar with a 7.5-inch screen ready for the Raspberry Pi.
Much more ambitious is Dasung’s e-ink monitor. The Paperlike 253 (for its 25.3-inch diagonal) is a fantastic promise of what may be to come, and indeed many readers will wonder: Why does no one make an e-ink monitor? The truth is that it has been a long time since they have tried to develop this type of device, but its scope and performance have not allowed it to materialize.
The latest example of the potential of this device is one that we have recently been able to access in Xataka. It is the reMarkable 2, a tablet with an electronic ink screen that invites you to read, but above all to take notes with your stylus and its excellent performance in this area.
The problem is (probably) the soda
All products based on electronic ink have clear advantages: their representation of fonts is spectacular in precision and they are also much less aggressive for our eyes. Not only that: the efficiency of this technology is unmatched, and the autonomy of an e-book reader is not measured in hours, but in days or even weeks.
Against all these virtues there is a fundamental asset that prevents its application to other areas. It is not the color: that barrier seems to begin to be overcome little by little. What i think it represents the biggest obstacle to these screens is their refresh rate, which makes its use inappropriate (to say the least) for video content and uncomfortable to think of as productivity solutions.
We see it when we use one of the browsers that are available to today’s e-book readers. They were not designed for that, but both the Kindle and the Kobo (for example) have internet browsers that allow you to browse the internet. The experience, If you have tried it, it exhausts anyone’s patience, and using these tools is quite tortuous due to the waiting and response times that these types of scenarios impose.
Some seem to have shown that improve those refresh rates on electronic ink screens it is possible, but it also seems clear that if E Ink – absolute market dominator – has not yet managed to find the key, it is for something.
I just hope they make it and that finally someone makes a 4K monitor at 30 Hz (not even 60) of electronic ink. As a second monitor to work they would have a candidate for their purchase right here.