At CES in Las Vegas we don’t often see a lot of new smartphones as companies focus heavily on the smart home and entertainment. This year during a tour of the Hisense booth and their range of televisions we stumbled upon a smartphone with a world first in screen technology. The smartphone was using a colour eInk display.

Traditionally an eInk display is used in products like the Amazon Kindle as they are fantastic for long durations of screen time, they don’t wash out in direct sunlight and they consume far less battery than LCD displays. Their refresh rates are far lower and that isn’t a problem when used for reading but could be when applied to watching a video on your smartphone. Further, eInk displays have always been used in a monochrome way for only showing text and with this new addition of colour from Hisense, it is a potential big step forward.

Using the Colour eInk Hisense smartphone it initially looked like the display was printed and glued on, it responded to touch in the same way an eReader with touchscreen would, swiping from the top, bottom, left, right would provide a less than instant response time however it wasn’t unbearable. The colours aren’t backlit so they are not as vibrant as you would get from LCD, but that is also the point here. Without backlighting, without the refresh rates of a normal smartphone, the battery life on this would be incredible. We’re talking weeks.

Opening the camera was when the refresh rates were mostly a problem, taking a lot longer to reflect our movements. What’s more of an issue though is what we do on our phones and how well that will work with eInk, fast scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, watching videos on TikTok or YouTube, none of this would be amazing on this phone, though it could be done.

The biggest excitement here is for anyone who reads comics. Colour eInk means that the next Amazon Kindle or other eReaders could be knocking on Hisense’s door to make use of the technology. Further, it means that newspapers could be more comfortable publishing to these stores as the reproduction could look exactly like the one thrown on your lawn every Sunday morning.

To answer the question for Australian availability though, not anytime soon.


Geoff travelled to CES as a guest of Jabra, Uber, LG and HERE Technologies. Continue the conversation with him on Twitter @GQuattromani

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Will try on a low end device if available

Daniel Narbett

Heh, a colour e-ink smartphone is strangely exciting given yes battery life would likely be measured in weeks.
And also it reminds me of probably my favourite ever tech review quote – the reviewer had an early-ish Kindle and was trying to get permission to read it while on a flight in the US, and wrote that trying to explain e-ink to an air steward was a lot like trying to explain the concept of God to a hungry bear