How would you like to be able to display grayscale pictures on the back of your iPhone 5 or 5S? Or is that idea not very exciting? Well then, how would you like to read eBooks from the back of your iPhone? Not really? Well … that’s kind of what I was thinking when I first received the OAXIS InkCase.
The premise behind the OAXIS InkCase is that if you could put an eInk display on the back of your iPhone, then you could use that screen to read books, look at documents, and when you weren’t doing that you could display grayscale eInk pictures. The idea sounds intriguing at least, but I was a bit skeptical going into the experience. After all, I think my iPhone’s 5’s 4″ screen is too small for reading on as it is; I suppose that I’ve grown spoiled by my iPad mini and Kindle Paperwhite, but of course I wanted to try it.
Included in the box is a rather plain black plastic case and a microUSB charging cable. The case itself is nothing special; it’s a slightly thicker than the usual black plastic number and it relies upon friction from a tight fit to keep it in place.
The InkCase has some face-down protection, there is good corner protection, and all of the ports are easily accessible, so there is that. But otherwise it’s a bit thick and really not special at all.
Of course, what sets this OAXIS InkCase apart from every other its low resolution 3.5″ (diagonal) eInk display on its back.
The eInk back panel is the one feature that makes the case stand out, and it is something that will get this case noticed repeatedly by people who happen to see your phone in it; everyone who has ultimately seen mine thought it was cool, so there is that. But I digress.
In order to do anything with the rear eInk screen, you must download one or both of the only two iPhone apps which are available at this time for the InkCase. The first app is InkCasePhoto, which is the delivery method you’ll use to move photos from your iPhone to the case. Look, I’ll be straight with you here — the photo app is buggy, and it will crash repeatedly — you’ve been warned.
But if you are patient and you keep trying, you will be able to get it to access your photos, and then you can do some simple editing. And by simple, I mean “Zoom & Crop” which basically means the case will pick what its going zoom in on and crop (because the box that should allow you to do that will show up as blank — oops) and varying degrees of grayscale, added frames, or cartoonization — definitely nothing fancy, but you’ll figure your way around it all fairly quickly. After you have done this a few times, you’ll have an InkCase gallery of photos from which to choose.
And on the back of your case, they will look something like this:
That’s kind of cool, right?
Reading eBooks on the case back is even worse than I expected it to be. Actually, it is pretty dreadful. To start, the EpiReader app only recognizes Mobi, TXT, DOC, FB2, EPUB, PDF, which means that no, you aren’t going to be able to read your Kindle Library on the back of your phone.
Okay fine, you’ll get over that, but how is it for all of the books that you can read in those formats? Well …
- Every time you turn a page, you have to click the button under the eInk screen
- Every time you click that button, you are accessing the app on your iPhone
- The eInk screen is extremely s-l-o-w to refresh pages
- You can change the size of the print, but honestly — reading from the back of your phone is nothing more than a “look what I can do!” feature.
So to recap, unless you are just desperate to read from an eInk screen, there is no battery saving or formatting benefit to reading eBooks from your iPhone case.
Another thing to consider is that there is nothing else you can do with this case, at least yet. There are no push notifications (or non-push notifications), you can’t set a clock to display, and until someone comes up with a new feature, this case is basically only a one and a half trick pony.
Furthermore, I’ve noticed that the battery life on the eInk case only seems to last for a few days. Granted, once the battery has finally died you’ll still have the last image showing on the case that was there when it was going strong; you just won’t be able to cycle through your images, but I thought that one of the benefits of eInk was supposed to be excellent battery life even when being used. Charging the case just adds one more cable to your iPhone, and that’s just obnoxious.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m having trouble finding much positive to say about the OAXIS InkCase i5 — other than the fact that it’s cool to be able to display eInk photos on the back. the InkCase i5 ultimately feels like an unfinished product or possibly just a prototype.
If you like the idea of an eInk display case, and nothing I’ve said has dissuaded you so far, then maybe this will: The MSRP on the InkCase is $130 (!!!). No, really.
The OAXIS InkCase i5 isn’t technically available in the US yet, although you can find them on eBay and various online retailers. They also make a version for the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
What I Like: Unique feature of being able to put eInk photos on the back of your case (whee!)
What Needs Improvement: Software is buggy; eInk screen is too small for comfortable reading; battery life isn’t great; adds one more cable to your iPhone when charging; it’s expensive; the case is think and unremarkable until you see the eInk display
Source: Special thank you to Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader for providing this review sample