Update (March 2017): Popslate have announced that the company is shutting down. Indiegogo backers of the Popslate 2 will not be getting a refund. For more information, you can read the company’s press release here.
Popslate launched their eponymous iPhone case, the back of which was an E Ink reader, as a crowdfunded Indiegogo project back in late 2012. They began shipping last spring. Although novel, sales didn’t heat up because, as Wired reports, they required a different cable to charge, they were huge (think Otterbox), and their E Ink screens only worked with a few apps. Now, the company is launching the Popslate 2 with the intent to right those wrongs.
Shipping in July 2016, the Popslate 2 is about half the original’s size, adding only 4mm of thickness to the current iPhone. The Popslate 2 can also charge at the same time as the iPhone, using the same Lightning cable. The case also functions as an external battery, giving users 9 more hours of call time or 4 additional hours of web browsing. The new E Ink screen displays sharper text than the old (200 dpi versus 115), and according to Popslate, it’s still shatterproof, like the original.
That E Ink screen is still the major selling point. It will display breaking news, sports scores, the time and weather — alerts and push notifications show up on your smartphone. Frequent travelers can use it to display scannable boarding passes. The company says they hope by launch to be compatible with apps like The New York Times, Twitter and Google Calendar.
But potential buyers looking to replace their e-reader might be disappointed. The case isn’t compatible with Amazon Kindle, leaving users without access to Kindle ebooks. Popslate 2 does have access to Project Gutenberg, but it’s not quite the same thing. Speaking with Wired, Popslate Co-Founder Greg Moon said, “We are also in discussions with additional e-book providers,” whom he could not name “for confidentiality purposes.”
So, will phone cases with secondary E Ink screens catch on? It’s tough to say. Popslate isn’t the only company trying to shift the paradigm. Oaxis’s InkCase i6 and YotaPhone’s YotaPhone 2 all have projects in the works. Currently, mainstream markets are only familiar with the concept of E Ink through e-readers. While in theory (and certainly in the company’s hopes), the multiple uses proposed for the Popslate’s E Ink display could empower the device to fundamentally change those 4.7 hours a day Americans spend using their smartphones (according to a 2015 Digital Trends study), most people may not warm to the idea of ditching the Kindle for a smaller (albeit more portable) screen that can’t access their favorite books. If that turns out to be the case — as they say, third time’s a charm.
The Popslate 2 will be available in black or white models, and will be compatible with iPhone 6, 6+, 6S and 6S+. Those who pre-order now get $70 off the case’s $149 MSRP.