The idea of combining E-Ink with a conventional smartphone display hasn't worked too well in the past, but that's not stopping InkCase from trying again.
The InkCase Plus is a smartphone case for Android phones with its own E-Ink screen. The phone communicates with the case through Bluetooth Low Energy, allowing the secondary screen to run its own low-power apps, such as an e-book reader, a photo gallery and a fitness monitor. The case has a folio design, so it can fold out and supplement the phone's primary display instead of just replacing it.
Oaxis, the company behind InkCase Plus, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the finished product. The campaign exceeded its $100,000 fundraising goal in less than a day. It's currently possible to order a case for $99, with estimated delivery in October.
This isn't Oaxis's first crack at an E-Ink smartphone case. Last year, the company launched cases for the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note II, but the products received middling reviews from The Digital Reader and TUAW, which both noted that there were not enough apps to make the case useful.
Other attempts at secondary E-Ink screens have run into their own problems. The Yotaphone, an Android handset with the secondary screen built in, also had too few useful apps, and the actual phone hardware was subpar. (Russia-based Yota Devices is working on a second-generation model with vast improvements over the original.) And Popslate, an E-Ink iPhone case that got funded on IndieGogo in early 2013, has become a textbook case of crowdfunded vaporware. The product has not yet shipped to backers, and the creators have been silent for over three months.
Oaxis thinks it can do better by providing more apps--including a notification bar, incoming phone call screen and music playback controls--and by releasing a software development kit for third-party apps. The company also told TechCrunch that InkCase's ability to act as an extra display is a key advantage.
But given the rough history of secondary E-Ink smartphone screens, it might be wise to keep your expectations in check.