Second screens have been an interest in the tech industry since the Yotaphone was first unveiled, it was a phone that built the second screen right into the smartphone and offered its users a way to extend their smartphone experience further. Since that time, we have seen a number of products that are looking to introduce a second screen in some other devices.
The InkCase i7 is one of those products.
It comes from the people at Oaxis, who have been creating a number of e-ink second screen cases for some time now. The InkCase i7 is the latest of those cases for the latest smartphone from Apple (at the moment), the iPhone 7.
It is still looking for funding on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, however, since we were sent a sample of the case we thought we would take you through our first impressions through this review. With that said, we would like to note that this is probably still a developing product and a lot of what we are about to go through might well change.
I should also note that sadly I only have an iPhone 6S on hand (still waiting for the iPhone 8) and so I did my review with that instead of an iPhone 7, for most things this works fine, however, you will notice that the cutouts are not aligned for this device, if you have an iPhone 6 then I would recommend using their InkCase i6 model instead, this was simply for purpose of this review.
Before receiving the package we were definitely excited to check out the InkCase i7, it’s a pretty neat idea and Oaxis have a lot of experience in doing this, so the i7 is more refined than any other e-ink case around, and that experience shows in the device, which is both sufficiently protective, grippy, and good looking.
The problem is that it does add quickly a lot of size to the case with an extra 4.5mm/0.1-inches, which might not seem like a lot but if you have never used a particularly think case before then this might throw you off quite a bit.
But if you want the features that it offers than that addition might be a worthwhile trade-off for you.
One of the biggest specifications of the case is the Carta 1.2 E-Ink-panel. It’s sized at 4.3-inches for the iPhone 7 model of the case and at 5.2-inches for the iPhone 7 Plus model, the latter of which features a 540 x 960-pixel resolution with around 217ppi.
That said, both of these are more than enough and sharp enough to view images and read text with, although it might not seem like much.
To get content onto the case and manage the settings, you can pair the case with the companion app on your iPhone over Bluetooth 4.0, which is pretty easy to do, but sadly, the app definitely needs a bit of work.
It’s a little confusing to use honestly and it definitely took me a few minutes to work out how each section worked and how I could transfer content such as news articles over to the case, and that’s coming from me, a guy who started a blog called TechNutty.
Once you have figured the case out, you will be able to use that Bluetooth connection to get all sorts of things like photos, PDF files, news articles, and even eBooks to the case, from which you will then navigate the menus using the capacitive buttons on the back.
One other feature in the app that you might be interested in is the real-time selfie mode, which will display what your iPhone’s rear-facing camera is showing on the E-ink display in real time, which is pretty cool as it enables to use the iPhone’s bigger and better camera to capture a better quality camera. But that’s not all, the case also has an interesting screen that can show data that has been synced from your phone, including the current time, date, your reminders, to-do lists, and your calendar with a set of widgets.
This is an interesting integration as it means you can glance at all of the important information, without needing an always-on display. Sadly, these widgets are as customisable as the widgets that are displayed on your actual iPhone, it would be fantastic to see these expanded further.
Despite the lack of customisation, this was definitely one of my favourite features of the InkCase i7 as it makes things much more accessible.
But it’s not just that, the case is also pretty great for reading those long articles on, and even a few eBooks.
E-ink screens are particularly great for reading stuff on-the-go and pretty much anywhere else and this is something that the InkCase does extremely well. Being able to sync your Pocket list is a fantastic feature for saving really long articles and syncing them with the InkCase for later, I read a lot of articles daily and so getting the particularly long ones is something that I like to save for later.
And you can also sync over ePub and txt documents and eBooks to the case, which is a great way for saving content for later, even with your battery dead, without needing a dedicated eReader on you.
And that’s pretty much one of the main reasons why a second screen might be better than one, E-Ink doesn’t use a lot of battery, it’s fantastic to read on and the InkCase i7 can be taken pretty much anywhere. The case is water and dust resistant with an IP67 certification that means that it should be dust tight for up to 8 hours and it will be fine in up to 1-meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Sadly, the case does use a proprietary connector to charge it, we would have liked to see a Lighting port here to make things easier, however, the magnetic charging is way cooler and you won’t have to charge it much, I charged the case about a week ago and it’s still going.
If you are interested you can find out more about the InkCase i7 on the Oaxis homepage today and since it is still looking for backing on Kickstarter, you can back it on Kickstarter today to grab a pre-order, it’s available for early birds for from $89.
Disclosure: Oaxis sent us a sample of the InkCase i7 for the purpose of this review.