The Digital note taking industry running E INK screen technology is started to get hyper competitive in 2022 and will go into overdrive in 2023. We now have more choice than ever before, with picking a trusted brand and sticking with it for the long haul. Onyx Boox has been one of the undisputed leaders in e-notes and has an extensive portfolio of 30-40 products released in the past five years. They never really had much competition, but they do now.
Remarkable has built up a brand from scratch and invests a ton into marketing on social media. They made over a hundred million in device sales in just a few years. Bigme has become an emerging player in the industry and have built up a very strong brand. They are not afraid to take risks with color e-paper and have developed an entirely new device that is employing Gallery 3 color e-paper, called the Galy. It is going to be shipping out in January 2023 and pre-orders for it have been very strong. Fujitsu has made a couple of generations of A4 and A5 e-notes in Japan, but they have English and have been very popular with an international market. The company has plans for a Gen 3 model using E INK Kaleido 3 color e-paper sometime in mid 2023. Sharp, have also announced a new 8-inch Gallery 3 tablet to be shipped out next year. Lenovo has an entirely new device called the Yoga Paper, and Huawei released the MatePad, their first e-note product.
One of the big trends in the e-note industry have been traditional Chinese companies that only focused on that specific market and are now loading in English and expanding their distribution. Hanvon, Huawei, iReader, Xiaomi and others in the past year have only released new products for the Chinese market, but they all have English on them and have landed some alternative distribution agreements, giving them greater reach.
Kobo has been involved in the e-Reader space since the very beginning and has been involved in consumer products since 2010. The company released the Elipsa e-note with a large screen and a stylus to take notes, freehand draw and edit PDF files. They have an advanced note taking experience which is great for solving complex math equations. Kobo primarily markets this to professionals and students.
Amazon is synonymous with e-Readers, they papalized the entire industry. The Kindle remains one of the most popular and beloved eBook readers in the world. Everyone has heard of it. The company did something very unexpected and announced the Scribe, which is a 10-inch e-note that has a 300 PPI screen, which is unheard of. You can edit Kindle books, PDF files and there is a note taking app. Expect Amazon to release numerous firmware updates to enhance and bug fix the device, well in the future. It is also fairly affordable, at $350.00.
The e-note industry is getting crowded and I anticipate some dramatic changes in the industry. Once Kaleido 3 and Gallery 3 hit consumer hands, pure black and white displays will be a hard sell. People will watch YouTube videos of how far color e-paper has come in the past 3-4 years and this will prompt more companies to focus on for product releases in 2023 and beyond.
One company that is doing something strange, is Onyx. They have been around for over ten years and the first five years was focusing exclusively on the Chinese market. In the past five years they have been building hardware and running two different firmware updates, one for the Chinese market and the other for a global release. When the Sony Digital Paper was at their height, Onyx burst on the scene and gradually refined their e-notes to a point, where they were the brand to beat. They had the best drawing, note taking and PDF editing platform. They were the only ones using Google Play on E INK tablets, which won over a ton of customers.
Over the course of 2022, Onyx has been announcing a bunch of new e-notes and tablets exclusively for the Chinese market. They announced products a couple of months ago, such as the Note X and Poke 4, and a couple of weeks ago announced the a series of new tablets and e-Readers. However, just this past week, they announced the compelling Tab Ultra, with a camera and the Leaf 2, with built-in page turn buttons. The exciting thing about the Leaf 2 is they have two variants. One with a sunken screen and bezel and the other with a flush screen and bezel. Nobody has ever had a single model before with two different screen options.
I have seen smaller brands such as Boyue disappear and Supernote on the brink of ruin. Who will be next? The future is not looking especially bright. I believe more smaller companies will go bankrupt or not be heard from again in 2023. This is primarily due to Sharp, Fujitsu, Amazon, Kobo, Lenovo, Huawei getting involved into e-notes and customers will tend to gravitate towards devices from well-known companies. However, there is a caveat. New screen technology. I believe the Bigme Gally, Sharp 8 and Fujitsu Quaderno Gen 3 with Kaleido 3 will be a seachange for the industry. If you aren’t using color e-paper in 2023, you will be a dinosaur.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.