The Hisense A7 CC is the first color E INK smartphone of 2021 and it has flagship specs, that could possibly be your daily driver. It has great hardware specs and 5G internet access that is compatible with most European and US carriers. Great strides have been made with color e-paper over the course of the past four months. There is now greater greyscale uniformity and color accuracy, providing a great experience when surfing the internet, using apps or curling up and reading a comic or graphic novel.
The Hisense A7 has a 6.7 inch E INK Carta HD and E INK Kaleido 2.0 color filter array. The black and white resolution is 900×1800 with 300 PPI and the color filter can display 4,096 colors with 100 PPI. It has a front-lit display with LED lights alongside the bottom of the bezel and project light evenly across the screen and not into your eyes. The lightning system can be totally turned off, completely shutting the LED lights down. This phone has a glass based screen that is flush with the bezel, it comes with a matte screen protector that is applied at the factory level, so you don’t have to install it yourself.
Hisense is primarily billing this phone as a daily driver and also an e-reader. Its screen is larger than an Amazon Kindle, so you can easily fit more text on the screen, even if you increase the size of the font. There is a reading mode function, so you can eliminate any distractions, such as popup or email notifications. You can switch between landscape and portrait mode, which is great. It has a new dynamic refresh mode, to eliminate ghosting. You have two different modes, clear mode, which is geared towards reading and speed mode, which is geared towards internet browsing, animations and apps.
The back of the phone has a fingerprint scanner, which can be used to unlock the phone. There is also a rear facing 16 MP camera. The power button and volume buttons are on the right side and E INK button on the left. The E INK button can be mapped to launch any function, such as an automatic page refresh, launching a particular app or calling up a the web browser. The front of the phone has a speaker grill, used for audio calls and it also has a front-facing 5MP camera for video conferencing, such as Zoom or selfies. It can also be used for unlocking your phone with your face.
Underneath the hood is a Unisoc Tiger T7510 8 core processor, 6GB RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. There is simply no other E INK phone on the market that can match these specs, both past and present. It has a 3.5 mm headphone jack to listen to music or podcasts, but also a speaker. It has a HIFI amplifier, and Hisense has said this is the best sounding speaker they made on an E INK phone. It is 33% louder than the A5 Pro. You can charge the A7 with the USB-C port and plug it into your computer or a wall charger. It has a giant 4770 mAh battery and has quick charging.
It will support most 5G bands thanks to the T7510 chip with NSA/SA support. 4G supported bands are B1; B3; B5; B8, B34; B38; B39; B40; B41 and 3G WCDMA 850/900/2100; 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900. You can also use your local WIFI network with 2.4/5G, to help conserve data. It is compatible with most major carriers in Canada and all of the US ones, except Sprint.
The Hisense A7 CC provides a better color experience than the previous generation Hisense A5 CC Pro and A5 CC. The problem with the previous generation of color e-paper is that the colors were not rich, they looked a bit muted. Kaleido 2 solves many of the issues we noticed with the first generation. The greyscale uniformity has been drastically improved, so the background will always be grey, instead of colors trying to mix together to create grey. It has better color accuracy, support for larger screen sizes. This is why a 6.7 inch smartphone was made possible.
The Hisense A7 CC is running Google Android 10, which is a very modern OS. This provides a myriad of security features that are updated automatically by Google. Hisense also pushes their own updates, which introduces new features, addresses bugs and stability. This is a typical Android phone. You can do everything you normally would on any other phone, the big exception it that it is running E INK, so it has lots of optimization features devoted towards this type of display. For example you can take screenshots, not by pressing a combination of buttons, but simply dragging three fingers down form the top of the screen, to the bottom.
Let’s talk about what this phone does, that is very unique, that most other Android phones don’t have. It comes with 4 different refresh modes, that are similar to the Onyx Boox line of e-readers. The normal one is clear mode, which gives you nice looking app icons, text, and PDF image clarity, it also has the same A2 mode, which degrades image quality, and provides a slight increase to performance. The two extra modes are the speedX and X-mode which makes playing videos, or light gaming a very real thing.
Hisense has their own launcher that replaces the default vanilla Android experience. There is a default widget that shows the time and date, but you can install anything else you want via apps, such as a weather widget. In the top right corner is the WIFI symbol and time, the top left is where your notifications are. If you drag your finger down from the top center of the screen, downwards, there are a bunch of customization settings. You can turn auto rotate on/off, flashlight, WIFI network, data connection, ringer on/off, establish a hotspot, engage in power saver mode, take a screenshot, location and engage Bluetooth for wireless accessories, such headphones. This screen is also where you can adjust the front-lit display. This phone has white LED lights on the bottom of the screen and project light upwards, evenly illuminating the screen and not shining in your eyes. If you scroll your page to the left, you get a very unique Hisense experience. There is all sorts of RSS news publications you can subscribe to, gives you a breakdown of how many hours you have been using the phone on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. There is a bunch of micro-widgets that give other information.
One of the best things this phone does, is give you the option to automatically assign different speed modes to, on an app by app basis. For example, you might want to have YouTube or the internet browser on Speed Mode, so navigation and watching videos can be a thing. The e-reading app might want to be in clear mode, whenever it starts, so you can read at high resolution.
If you want to have greater control over the E INK experience, Hisense has introduced a number of new features. There is an anti-aliasing option to make fonts razor sharp, and not blurry. There is a new contrast mode to make the differences between black and white more pronounced. You can see from the screenshot there are tons of new options you can use.
There are various battery saving modes, such as the standard power saving and Super power saving mode. You can get around two weeks of usage in super power saving mode, as it shuts down lots of background processes.
The only downside of this phone, is that it is not certified by Google, so you will not get Google Play and any app that requires Google Play Framework will not work properly. This sucks for major apps. The Hisense App Store has all sorts of apps available, but since this phone is primarily marketed in China, most of the apps are in Chinese. On the positive side, the cellular bands, 5G work in almost every major country and the system language can be set to English and hundreds of other languages. If installing apps is important, you can download alternative app stores, or sideload in your own apps. It is possible to install the open source Gapps alternative to Google Play, we will be filming a future video on how to do this, but you can visit the site here. All you need to do to get started is select ARM64, and Android 10 and the Super package, which includes all Google apps. There is a detailed instruction guide for Hisense Phones HERE.
Obviously one of the most important elements of a full color E INK smartphone, is that you can read on it, without straining your eyes. This not only includes ebooks, most also comics, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers and apps such as Libby, Feedly, RSS news app or just using the web-browser and reading webcomics or webtoons, or even your favorite blog, Good e-Reader!
The Hisense A7 CC ss the largest E INK smartphone ever made. Prior phones screen size were only 5.84 inches and this is 6.7 inches, about the same size as the Apple iPhone Pro Max. This phone default reading app supports all of the major formats, such as EPUB, PDF, MOBI, TXT, DOC, CBR and CBZ. You can sideload in your own personal collection of content or access it from the cloud, from services such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Onedrive. There are plenty of features to customize the reading experience such as increase the font size, augment the font type, change the line spacing or margins.
Given that this is running Android 10, you likely have your pool of favorite reading apps you will want to sideload. This could be Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Moon+ Reader, Perfect Viewer, comixology, manga box, Overdrive Libby or anything else. You can sideload these apps, or download the Good e-Reader App Store for E INK or download apps from sites such as APKMIRROR. I suggest doing the legwork and installing Gapps, since you can get Google Play working
I believe this phone excels at not just reading ebooks, but also all sorts of other color content. You will still need to pinch and zoom PDF files, since most are made for A5 or A4 sized screens, and this is still basically a smaller screen, but this is basically the same as any other smartphone will be using on a daily basis. I think this phone could be your daily driver, being an editor, and writer, lots of my day is spent reading the news, looking for stories and seeing what is happening in the world of tech. I frequently checkout Reuters, Google News, Feedly, Reddit and various internet forums, all of these apps can easily be installed on the A7 CC, and look great.
The Hisense A7 CC is one hell of a E INK smartphone with a second generation Kaleido display. Compared to the previous generation Hisense phones, this has a larger screen, more powerful hardware specs, 5G and more accurate colors. The main purpose of this phone is to provide the same type of experience as you would find on any other flagship Android phone, except you won’t have to charge it every day, you can get away with doing it every couple of weeks. It is also ideal for people with vision disorders or get headaches from typical LED/LCD displays. If you need a phone, that provides a full color experience for reading, any type of content, you will want to buy this.
Hisense A7 CC$529.99
- Just about as good as color gets on a flush screen and bezel
- One of the few devices out there bigger than 6 in
- Full smartphone capabilities
- High build quality
- Best camera of any e-ink device currently made
- Still a fair amount of layers in between the eating surface and your eyes
- Glass screen + matte screen protector combination dilutes the color vibrancy
- Very hard to use in one hand
- No Google play out of the box
- Lots of Chinese apps
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve 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. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.