E-ink screen replacement?

I wonder if the idea has been ever considered at Fairphone. I’m currently thinking of buying a phone with E-ink screen. Ideally I would like to have a fully functional smartphone, ie. good camera, LTE connectivity, perhaps dual sim. Fairphone seems to be ideally suited with the modular construction - people could choose color or e-ink screen upon purhase but change it easily if they change their mind.

Hisense recently released A5 which looks awesome but unfortunately it lacks the LTE bands I need. There’s also Onyx’ e-ink phone on the horizon, but no detials yet.


I don’t know how logistically feasible this would be for a small company to have this as a complete phone option in the shop (production on demand?), but otherwise this would be a great display option if you don’t need high quality video playback (which I think is still a problem with E Ink even if you accept greyscale).

What @AnotherElk said, small company focusing on a fair phone for average use and the average customers. A fair phone is, as it is, already a niche.

On a personal level, I do like smartphone innovation, including e-ink and high uptime / low battery usage.

Hisense announced a smartphone with color e-ink, but not for EU.

Lightphone 2 is rather expensive for what it delivers. I do like the minimal UI design, but it is just too much in the same market as a regular dumbphone.

Weakness is still the refresh rate. You can see it in the video above.


How would that work? It’s not possible to use a camera on an e-ink screen, since they only have refresh rates of like 10fps max. Moreover, you couldn’t even judge if the picture was good since it would be in 16-color greyscale.

Don’t get me wrong, I love e-ink, I also own a reMarkable tablet (yes, it’s extremely overpriced, but it’s the only way for me to keep my university notes organised and I didn’t want to stare at a normal (tablet) screen for even more hours), but I don’t think this technology is suitable for a smartphone. Maybe it will be in a couple of years.

??? What has the screen with the camera to do? You can take pictures and watch them on a big Tablet or a computer or print them out.

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Sure, but how do you make a good picture when you can’t see what you’re shooting?

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Obviously not everybody would be in the target group for such a display.

And you can see what you are shooting, you just can’t instantly see how the picture turned out.
How did people back in the days make good pictures on film when they couldn’t instantly see how they turned out?

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Why did I already know that this was coming… :roll_eyes:
Back in the days every analog camera had a viewfinder, which - what a coincidence - made people able to see what they’re pointing their cameras towards.

With this hypothetical setup you have no idea if the picture is correctly lighted, if the colours are accurate, if its blurred or not and so on. The only feedback you get before you take the picture is a blurry greyscale image that updates once in a while. For photos, it’s maybe possible with a lot of time and nerves, but try shooting video.

I definitely agree with you.


That’s not the problem :roll_eyes: … you are seeing what you’re pointing your camera towards on E Ink, too, it’s not as if the screen turns black when you activate the camera.

You didn’t have that idea with photos on film either. Only understanding what you were doing with the settings of the camera and experience gave you a good chance to get a good picture developed later on. Or a Polaroid camera :slight_smile: .

E Ink is very obviously not suited for video at the moment. No point in trying if you don’t accept the limitations.

E Ink eats not so much energy. That is the main point with that.

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I love my e-reader, but I would hate a phone with an e-ink display. It has been pointed out several times already, but I think it’s probably a very niche market. Fairphone is already serving a niche market of people wanting to make responsible purchasing decisions rather than blindly buying the next big thing, I don’t think it would be a very good idea to aim at a niche within that niche. I’m not even sure the two niches overlap at all :stuck_out_tongue: They might be two completely separate groups of people! I’m sure Fairphone is not after the big money, but it would be nice if they managed to stay in business. :wink:


As far as I understood it, we are not talking about only offering E Ink.
This is about having E Ink as an optional replacement display.

Where’s the problem with that?

I don’t think this makes a whole lot of difference to the point I was making. There’s no problem as such with people being able to buy a different display if they like. My point was it would not be feasible for Fairphone to produce such a phone/display, as they’re already catering to a small group of customers and within that group of customers, the demand for such a product will most likely be very low.

To me it seems every now and then people come around with some great idea for Fairphone, but they seem to forget how small the company is and they don’t seem to expect any of these developments they propose from companies who could actually afford to develop them.

A bit irrelevant, but the feeling is akin to when someone judges me for eating cheese because they know I don’t eat meat. But in the meantime, they’re eating a big juicy steak. Fairphone is doing an awesome job, but people still expect more. Why don’t we expect more from the big players in the market?

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I generally share this sentiment.
But most of these ideas revolved and revolve around alternatives to Fairphone’s product on offer at the time as a whole because some features were considered off with the product. (I’m thinking “Make it smaller/bigger”, “Make it more powerful” etc. including unfeasible redesigns of the core module.)
Or there were ideas to expand beyond smartphones, which is a whole different affair.

Fairphone were forced to design and use a different display module for the Fairphone 2, albeit with the same technical specs, to replace the original module the original vendor stopped producing. This was not the 100% same piece as it needed changes in the software to work.

And Fairphone developed and sold better camera modules for the Fairphone 2, and surely not everybody owning a Fairphone 2 bought those.

So there’s enough precedence if we’re “just” talking about a module apart from the core module.


I use phone camera to take a shoot of something to remember, i.e. quick note taking. Most of the time it’s text, sometimes pictures of intricate things. 12Mpx fast auto-focus camera is good at this task, but still so many “dumb phones” have low quality cameras like 5Mpx, 8Mpx good only to make a quick picture of a funny cat. Professional photography is a completely different topic, and I guess no smartphone is good for it.

Anyway, yes, regarding the other comments I didn’t know how big (or rather small ) company Fairphone is. I lurked at the other thread regarding the issues with the open software and that completely ruined my impression about the company.

If I would be Fairphone I would announce and bring Fairphone Open OS for the Fairphone 3 if only to make the people who posted such comments look extremely silly in hindsight, you have to get some enjoyment out of your work afterall :slight_smile: .

This feels a little unfair. The company aims to produce a durable phone that can be used for a longer time than the average smartphone, while using as many ‘fair’ materials as possible. They’ve done a great job accomplishing this goal and are still working on changing the smartphone industry one step at a time. Regarding any new possible features, or an open OS, I don’t think they promised these things, so I don’t see why you should judge them for not offering them.


It wasn’t clear, sorry. I only meant to acknowledge that I did not know anything about the company, just saw their phone in the catalog of a local shop and got impressed at first. However my biggest complain about “unfairness” in the smartphone industry is bloatware/spyware, and what not. I do a conscious choices to buy only fully hacked devices or truly open source (if it ever happen). I understand their “fair” definition but it’s not what I expected.

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This is a problem indeed.

There’s multiple ways to tackle it.

First of all, do you really need a camera? If you have a selfie camera, it does not matter much how good it all looks as you generally use it for video calling anyway. If you’re video calling, yes, the screen would stutter.

Possible solutions:

  1. Don’t do it.

  2. Use a dedicated screen and/or camera. There is no reason why you cannot use USB-C to HDMI adapter.

  3. Shoot multiple pictures, or a video.

  4. Have multiple cameras. That’s how current mid and high end smartphones are dealing with the issue (because the issue exists even with smartphones which do have 60 Hz).

  5. Have a modular screen where the user can replace e-ink with regular or high Hz (for gaming). That’s the most futuristic I suppose.

I like modularity. Something like microUSB or USB-C or USB-A allows such. A small HDMI screen (like on RPi) would work in this case. I’d go for solution #2, with a wishful thinking about solution #5.

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