Distraction free, is a new marketing catchphrase for devices that have no social media, emails or popup notifications of any kind. We have seen a number of new E INK products bill themselves in this manner, such as the Remarkable 2 and the Freewrite Traveler typewriter. Do customers want this type of experience, or is distraction free another word for limitations?
The original Remarkable was a crowdfunding sensation and made brought digital note taking devices to the mainstream. There have been two different versions of the Remarkable, the first gen was released three years ago and the Remarkable 2 is shipping now. Remarkable has always said they want to offer a new way of taking notes, freehand drawing, editing PDF files or reading an ebook. They do not offer apps of any kind or an internet browser. You will not be able to access email, Facebook or Twitter. It is a singular purpose e-note.
Many people have heard of the Remarkable if you are on social media. The company spends a ton of money running advertising campaigns, hyping up their product. This is strange, because they see value in social media for marketing, but think having this type of functionality on their slate is pure folly.
Remarkable is not the only digital note taking device on the market, there are plenty of others that have a distraction free experience, but they do not bill themselves as such. This includes the Sony Digital Paper, Supernote A5/A6X and Fujitsu Quaderno. There is also a bunch of writing slates that are not E INK, such as the Boogie Board and Kaite.
Multipurpose E INK tablets are far more common and give users the ability to craft their own experience. The current line of Onyx Boox of devices offer Android 10, Google Play and the same type of note taking and writing experience as the Remarkable or Sony Digital Paper. The Onyx hardware is also faster, with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, high speed RAM and tons of internal storage. You can elect to not install apps and have a distraction free experience, or you can install whatever you want. Many people like this approach, because you can choose your own adventure. The Boyue Likebook series is also similar to Onyx.
Freewrite has been around for a number of years and has only done one kind of product, a digital typewriter. Their newest device is called the Freewrite Traveler. It is aimed at authors who want a physical keyboard and no distractions when writing. The only thing it has is cloud syncing with Dropbox, so you stories or spontaneous prose can be saved locally or externally. There is support for 32 different languages, so it is not exclusively being marketed to the US, but all over the world. One of the downsides, is since the company is small, the price is high, it is around $400 to buy it. There are other types of products like this available, but they don’t have the same name brand recognition, such as the King Jim. Hackers also make their own devices, but they are just homebrew products.
There has been little market research done on what users actually want, when it comes to E INK products. Do people want a distraction free, singular purpose product? Do they want a tablet, with more functionality? Freewrite and Remarkable have done a very good job at building their brands, and although they are not household names, they are recognizable to anyone who follows E INK tech products.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.