Hands on with the Onyx e Ink Android Phone

onyx eink phone

Onyx intends on releasing the first fully featured e ink phone in the 3rd quarter of 2013. We got our hands on the final hardware model of this new phone and the only thing that will change is the firmware. One of the big hyping factors behind this is the front-lit display, much akin to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and the one week battery life.

The Onyx e Ink phone takes e-Paper out of the e-Reader world and transplants it in the very competitive smartphone arena. It features a 4.2 inch screen, running on Android 2.3 operating system. The resolution is 480×800 and is powered by a 1 GHZ CPU processor. Battery life should last you around one week, the device we had was being constantly fondled for the last 36 hours and was still at 90%.

The phone itself is rather brilliant! It does not suffer from the page-refresh issues that plague most modern day e-Readers. If you are text messaging, adding a contact or typing in a phone number, its instant. I never saw any ghosting on the screen and there is a button you can press to turn on the front-lit display. This will insure that you can use the phone in low-light conditions, something you could not do with e-Paper a few years ago.

Aside from text messaging, contacts and the phone itself, it comes bundled with an e-Reader app. It does not give you much in the way of editing font sizes or highlights, but since it runs Android, it would be very easy to install your favorite. I verified that in the settings menu, you can click on enabled Unknown Sources, and sideload in your own applications. This means, you can install Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Overdrive and whatever digital reading app that tickles your fancy.

The one thing that impressed me, was the responsiveness of the phone. Every menu instantly loaded and typing was a breeze. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and pressing down on keys pops up, with little to no LAG. The long battery life should also be an endearing factor, if you are on your phone lots, you should get a full week out of it, which is quite amazing. It also has a microphone that allows you to search the internet by voice, or even type notes and text messages by voice.

It remains to be seen if e Ink phones will truly catch on. You will not be able to watch videos, but you can listen to music via the 3.5mm headphone jack or the rear facing speaker. You can load your own content on it via the Micro USB cable and also use it to charge the device. The battery is swappable, as we took the rear casing off and found out you can.

Honestly, I was super impressed we managed to get our hands on this phone, with no one walking us though it. When Peter and myself were at SID Display Week on Monday, it was locked in a glass case. Obviously, cases do not scare me, and I see it as a personal challenge to flex all of Good e-Readers muscles to make it happen. After a few emails and phone calls, we had our hands all over this new e Ink phone. Lastly, when will it come out and how much will it cost? We heard Q2-Q3 2013 it will be out, the pricing is more of an unknown. Basically, ONYX is shopping this around to various carriers all over the world. If a few buy into it and place some large orders, it will cost less to make, due to the large volume. There are many factors that will influence the price, but right now it is totally unknown. Worldwide availability is also an unknown. All we do know, is that it is only 3G, and should be compatible with most major phone networks, but even e Ink did not know the bands that it is using.

Cincopa WordPress plugin

Michael Kozlowski (5215 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to michael@goodereader.com

  • Ryno Bones

    I would give up my HTC One X for that. That is freaking awesome on so many levels.

  • Eric

    I really hope this phone will be available for the Japanese market too….

  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

    I totally agree! Need this.

  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

    Totally, i hope it has wide availability!

  • Michael

    That’s amazing. I really like this kind of user experience. Does it available in China?

  • asdf

    why is it DAMN Small??? LOLs

  • אהרן גולדברג

    Where can I buy it?

  • Gustav

    I suffer from LCD eye-strain, so this e-paper phone is my last hope. Now the big question for customers is the type of the frontlight. Do you know if it has a constant flow of light? This is the case if it is solely driven by DC, Direct Current. Most LED front and back lights as of today use PWM, Pulse Width Modulation, which introduces flicker at a more or less high frequency. Some users, including me, get eye-strain and headaches because of that flicker.

    It would be so horrible if this phone is going to use PWM as well. Please no!
    I fear there is nothing I can do to influence the manufacturing, however maybe someone else who reads this…

    @Onyx: imagine you can advertise your product as especially eye-friendly because the frontlight is “free of flicker”!
    Win-win for both customers and company…

  • J

    I hope the front light can be turned off completely, but the mention of the power button also triggering the front light doesn’t encourage me… I’m even considering buying one and physically disable the front light if I have to.

  • Luifa

    Can’t wait until colored eInk Smartphones!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003386080045 John doe


  • mallen

    Im interested if it can live up to the hype on battery life. One thing I think could kill it though. If it does not have a replaceable battery. In other words,a much larger percentage,perhaps even MOST buyers,will want an extended batter. The thing is,any user willing to give up a color screen for battery life,is going to want as much as he can get,and will be very interested in the thicker extended battery.

    I agree about the worry about the front light. Its a power thing in my mind. If they dont have a light sensor that only turns it on when you need it,its a problem.It would actually be nice to have the same sort of light the kindle touch comes with.

  • Avalanc

    No WIFI, archaic android, 512 RAM? No thanks. But interesting thou.

  • Alexander

    Brilliant! I am waiting for such phone since monochrome Samsung R225. Will be good if it will be able to read fb2 files as e-reader, and no bluetooth please. I do not want additional fry for my brains. E-Ink does not have any flicker, so it is good for my eyes.

  • db

    I’ve been wanting something along these lines ever since phones went to colour LCD screens that you can’t see in sunlight.

  • Gus Smith

    I will defintely buy this. Battery life for me is Number One priority. And I mostly only use twitter, kindle reader and email

  • Gus Smith

    This is probably for sale end of 2013.

  • EEE

    The specs indicate, it will not support the 850 MHz band that is needed for the USA.