Video of Onyx’s Android E Ink eBook Readers and Smartphone

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Onyx Android Ereaders

Charbax from ARMdevices.net is at Computex 2013 this week and once again posted an interesting video that shows off some of Onyx International’s new Android-powered E Ink ebook readers as well as their 4.3″ E Ink Android smartphone.

Unfortunately Onyx has virtually no presence in the United States so unless you follow the field of ereaders closely you’ve probably never heard of them, but they’ve been working on ebook readers since 2009 and have some really impressive software.

Onyx has been working to transition their software from Linux to Android. Android, of course, offers a lot of advantages for users with all of the apps that can be installed. And unlike Sony and Barnes and Noble who also have Android-powered ebook readers, Onyx is going to leave the operating system open so that users can install Android apps if they choose, which could come in handy for apps like Gmail, RSS readers, alternate reading apps, web browsers, etc.

I noticed in the video that Onyx has developed a fast refresh mode to make Android apps run faster, kind of like developers did with the Nook Touch with partial refresh mode (there’s a trick to enable fast refresh on the Sony Readers too). They demo Angry Birds with and without fast refresh and the difference is significant. Of course Angry Birds on E Ink is old news, but it serves as a good demonstration of speed.

The video also shows Onyx’s E Ink Android phone, which is expected to be released in September of this year. It has changed some since the last time we saw it. For one it now has a frontlight. It was also revealed to have a 800 x 480 resolution E Ink screen.

Personally I’m somewhat skeptical about the phone. The capacitive touchscreen is still under development and clearly does not work well in its current condition in the video. Also the screen is very reflective. But the key to the phone’s success will be battery life, and I’m not sure it’s going to be all that great when you consider how much differently phones are used than ebook readers. Granted the display will be easier to read outside in bright light, but it’s going to take a lot to draw people away from their colorful and bright LCD and AMOLED smartphone screens.

Another device to make an appearance in the video is an early prototype of an ebook reader that uses an 8″ color E Ink screen. Pocketbook recently announce they will be releasing an 8″ color E Ink ereader, and Onyx looks to do the same sometime next year.

Last but not least, Onyx is looking to refresh their large and popular 9.7″ E Ink ereader as well, the Onyx M92. Details on it are still sketchy but it is expected to run Android 4.3. Maybe Onyx will decide to go even larger and use one of E Ink’s new 13.3″ Mobius displays. That would be interesting.

Onyx’s Android E Ink eReaders and Smartphone

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11 Responses to “Video of Onyx’s Android E Ink eBook Readers and Smartphone”

  1. Hmm… for me the phone is the most interesting gadget. I would like to have an e-reader, a basic phone, an MP3-player, and e-mail in a single device with long battery life and a nice e-ink display. I think, this phone could be just that. But it depends on the price – it has to stay in the price range of low-end smartphones where it trades some smartphone features (camera, gps, color, video) with e-reader features (e-ink display and long battery life). The result is a device that’s not a really good e-reader and not a really good smartphone but a nice mixture for mobile use. Hmm… I would pay the price of a Kindle 5 (70€) plus that of an Huawei U8510 (60€). Ok, both high volume devices with low price points. So add 20€ to make it 150€.

    • I really hope the E Ink phone doesn’t disappoint, but I fear that when it comes to phones E Ink’s battery life claims will be found unrealistic. Android sucks a lot of battery power, even in standby when the screen is off. Speaking from experience, once hacking Android ebook readers like the Nook Touch and Sony PRS-T1 and T2, battery life goes down significantly when using them more like tablets. It’s still better than LCD, of course, but it’s more like 2-4 days per charge instead of 2-4 weeks. Add the battery drain of searching for a signal and talking on the phone and I just don’t see it getting good enough battery life to justify the sacrifices in other areas. I hope Onyx proves me wrong, though, because I do like the idea of an E Ink phone.

      • Re: Battery Life on a hacked e-Ink-Reader.
        I have disabled everything, that is not available or used (bluetooth, telephony services, sync, Calender services), the hints for doing that are in the same forums which help with rooting. I cannot say that battery-life is worse.
        But then I do USE it that much as a tablet.
        Used mostly as a Reader I cannot say battery-life suffers from rooting/hacking. Turning WLAN off also helps battery-life.

        But since my Sony PRS-T1 experienced the turn-2or3-pages at once, I have not used it that much anyways, I am not sure wether the problem is dirt or the rooting/hacking. I switched to a Kindle PW and do not regret it (except for the new Waterproof-Version).

  2. I’m glad there are still people out there that are ready to implement such wonderful ideas.I’ve never been satisfied with my smartphones and using them as readers have been out of question due to eye strain. Also, I’ve been saving my money to buy an 10 inch ebook reader for the last few months but I know the limitations of using dictionaries with the Linux system on board. Could anyone tell me whether the new An droid-run phone / tablet will allow me to use such great dictionary appliances like Goldendict, mspdict (which are great Android sollutions for those who learn foreign languages and need to use multiple dictionaries). Anyway, great new and thank you Onyx for making my day. I’ve now redoubled my motivations to save a bit more money.

  3. My main question about this phone is if it has a built-in fm radio like all the phones in market. It has almost everything I want: night time reading, email, reader apps, rss, chat apps. For videos I prefer a tablet.

  4. I’ve decided to purchase the current Linux platform Onyx FireFly for the simple reason that the software on the Onyx Android platform does not do as many functions as the software on the Linux platforms. The Linux platform Adobe .pdf reader does some functions that no Android .pdf reader performs. And Onyx is having battery life issues with Android, which does not surprise me. My take is the Onyx Android won’t be ready for “prime time” for at least a year.

  5. Are you sure about the Android version 4.3 in the future version of the large reader. All the news I have checked remark that the devices run an old 2.x version (I don’t remember which version exactly), even the phone, and that can become an issue as apps upgrade and you lose support in older versions. I really like my rooted Nook Touch, and I’m keeping an eye on Onix and their next generation of Android devices, but when recently I had to replace my broken NT (an unfortunate fall), I would have not been able to install my favorite reading app if I hadn’t previously back-up the apk file, so maybe buying a new device with an old Android version is not such a great idea…

  6. Seems like most of the goodies will be out in 2014. Can’t wait.

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