Start-up adds detachable screen to smartphone case

The e-ink reader (left) on the InkCase Plus (right) can be removed and used as a second screen.

Soon, you may be able to see notifications, read books and look at pictures using only the case of your smartphone.

That is, if all goes well for Oaxis, a Singapore start-up founded by Mr G-Jay Yong, 32. The InkCase Plus is an e-ink reader that comes with a specially designed smartphone case that holds both the smartphone and e-ink reader.

The e-ink reader on the back of the case works like a second screen. It lets you display an image of your choice on the cover, read e-books and even control music.

The InkCase Plus is the successor to the original InkCase released last year for the iPhone 5/5s. The new model has more functions and a new modular design that makes it possible for the e-ink reader to be used separately from the case.

So a user can keep his smartphone in his pocket and detach the small and light e-ink reader from the case to read an e-book, for example. The reader weighs less than 45g and is just 5mm thick. The e-ink is clearly visible in bright sunlight, making it suitable for viewing outdoors.

There are products that use the same idea. They include the YotaPhone, a Russian-made Android smartphone with an e-ink display on its back, which was launched in Europe earlier this year; and the popSlate, a smartphone case with a built-in e-ink reader. Funded on Indiegogo last year, it has yet to ship.

The InkCase Plus supports additional features including accepting calls, music control and displaying fitness statistics for outdoor activities.

Mr Yong offered this example: "I have a heart condition, so it's very important for me to track my statistics, especially my heart rate, when I go for my runs. The InkCase's e-ink reader is lighter and easier to carry when I'm running compared with my phone." The smartphone can be placed in a pocket or in an arm strap and the e-reader hand held so that a user can check his fitness statistics.

The case uses Bluetooth to send information on demand, so it drains the battery more slowly. Images or information on the e-ink reader stays on the display without using power.

The InkCase battery is said to allow for continuous reading for up to 19 hours, with a standby of up to seven days. Oaxis plans to open the InkCase software development kit to app developers.

The Inkcase Plus will target Android smartphones, focusing on the Samsung Galaxy S5. Oaxis said it will consider creating cases for other smartphones depending on demand.

Oaxis launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter yesterday aiming to raise US$100,000 (S$124,000). If all goes well, Oaxis plans to release the InkCase Plus in November at US$99. The early bird price is US$79.

colintan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 16, 2014.
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