Ever looked at your iPhone 7 and thought “you know what would make this phone better – more screens!”? Well someone at InkCase certainly did and came up with a protective case for your iPhone that has an e-ink screen on the back.
The first thing you notice as soon as you remove the case from the package is just how unnaturally light it seems, especially for something that contains a screen, battery, Bluetooth and changing system. It has a very low profile so it really doesn’t add much bulk to your phone. Your phone fits snuggly into the impact resistant, semi rigid InkCase, VERY snugly. So much so in fact that you need a little tool (supplied) that looks very like a guitar plectrum to remove the case. The unit is charged by a proprietary cable with a magnetic attachment, which is not only rather swish, but it also helps keep the size down – no chunky ports. There are buttons on the perimeter of the case that correspond with your volume and power buttons and I have to say, these work fantastically well. Much better than the rubber buttons you usually get on cases. The case has a raised bezel, which offers further protection for your screen.
The case does feel very well built, despite its feather weight and slim profile, although I did find the finish on it to be very slick in hand and it offers no grip at all. I did notice that once or twice, whilst sitting down, my phone did try to slide from my pocket and make its escape.
The obvious feature of this product is, of course, the e-ink screen on the back. The case pairs with your phone via Bluetooth and is controlled by the InkCase app, downloaded from the app store. There are 3 soft keys on the InkCase which are used for navigation and selection, as well as a power button. When you transition from using the phones touch screen to the e-ink screen, you will undoubtedly find yourself tapping on it and wondering why it wasn’t responding! You can use the second screen as an e-reader for news (pushed to your device) and ebooks in the epub format with content added via iTunes or the Pocket app (you will need to set up an account), again, available through the app store. You can also display photos, sent from your phones photo library, or the InkCase’s widget. The widget can be a simple clock or it can sync with your phone using low power Bluetooth to display the time along with your reminders and calendar events for the day.
This is a very smart idea and I have to admit, I love the concept. I did feel that the functionality was a bit limited though. When displaying a photo, I would have loved for there to be a gallery function that would periodically cycle through the photos you sent to the case rather than a single static one. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be having my reminders and daily itinerary on permanent display for the people sitting opposite to you on the train to read, however, the customisation of the InkCase widget is fairly basic, only giving a few options. If you just want the clock, it’s a big analogue dial. I would hope that as the product develops, more customisation options will be added allowing more control over what is displayed etc.
The screen itself is pretty decent, although the resolution is relatively low and I noticed quite a bit of ghosting left after the screen has transitioned as there is no screen flash between images. Battery life seems very good for the diminutive size of it and will depend on what you have the “auto power off” function set to and of course how much you use it. The screen only uses power in transition, so static image will last a lot longer than a constantly updating clock display. When the unit switches off it displays a default notification image. There is an option in the app for “customised power off image” but there are no clear instructions as to how to actually do this.
I will say though that InkCase seems to be a company that listens to feedback and learn from it. They have recently released a new and improved version of the case for the iPhone 7 plus and have increased its functionality, adding more features. This a great sign, and I am more than intrigued to see what this company can come up with in subsequent iterations of the case. The original iPhone 7 case is a very handy gadget, admittedly not without a few limitations, but it is early days and very importantly – it has shown that it can be done. You can have a second screen on your phone with its own separate power source for separate tasks. As each new version of this case comes out, it will undoubtedly unlock more and more capabilities, and that is really rather exciting!
Click here for the Oaxis InkCase website.
Click here to go straight to the Kickstarter campaign.