E Ink reference phone and flexible display hands-ons (video)

Looking for your dream phone? Chances are, this isn't it -- but it could be the precursor to what could eventually be cradled in your pocket, especially if you are a fan of E Ink. The device seen above and in the first gallery below is one of just five prototypes of the E-ink reference phone in existence. The point? The company wants to have a tangible Android-powered (2.3.5 Gingerbread, to be exact) model to give to potential partners, so they can craft something similar down the road. We're told that it will most likely be used on the back of color phones, much like the YotaPhone, but partners are welcome to get crazy on the front screen as well. No official timeframe for availability or seeding has been set, but it is expected to roll out in limited capacity sometime this year.

Official specs are few and far between, but what we do know is that this nameless phone is driven by a Cortex-A5 CPU of some kind. Given that this is an extremely early prototype, the E Ink device had a lot of bugs when we played with it: force closes, reboots and slow response are among the things we noticed. However, we imagine this will continue to improve with time, so by the time of seeding it may be a completely different story.

The UI reminds us of a simplistic feature phone geared toward the basic user, with six icons on the front screen including an app menu. As we'd expect, the phone is great for reading books, and it comes with the option to install applications (though it's possible most games wouldn't look that great). You can also shake the device to clean the text in case it ends up getting "dirty," or misaligned.



We also got our hands on an early prototype of a super thin and flexible E Ink display, which could eventually give manufacturers the ability to make back covers with the tech built-in, meaning virtually any phone with a removable lid could technically do the same thing that YotaPhone has achieved. Much like the phone, there is very little information about time frame of availability or seeding, but again, it's likely not anywhere close to finding its way in our Galaxy or Optimus. We included a gallery above so you can see some of the possibilities down the road.