Popslate e-Ink iPhone 6 Case Review

Popslate is officially the coolest iPhone case on the market. Spawned from an [optimistic] Indiegogo over two years ago, the Popslate case for iPhone 6 is finally here, and wow, did it deliver! Popslate ingeniously adds a second always-on, display to the back of your iPhone. Think of it like a Kindle e-reader on the back of your phone. The screen is nearly the size of iPhone’s screen and uses e-ink technology, which has some really neat properties and applications. You can display whatever you want on the back of your phone. Customize your case with wallpapers, pictures of your friends, pets, drawings, or use it to display functional things like boarding passes, calendars, recipes, to do lists. The power is yours!

Other than the screen on the back, Popslate looks like a regular iPhone case. It sports the aesthetics of a charging case since it’s a bit thicker than usual on the backside. Considering it houses a screen and technology, it’s pretty sleek and usable. There’s a bit of extra heft, but there’s also some good protection too. The bottom of the case snaps off and iPhone slides in. The case exceeds iPhone’s face by a couple millimeters, adding nice front protection. The case leaves full access to the bottom ports. This was a good choice by Popslate. Their earlier concepts had the device using iPhone’s battery, which means the case would have had to plug into the lighting port and would have a long chin. The ports are all very accessible, which is key for a good case.

The e-ink screen is about 4 inches in diagonal and is slightly recessed on the back of the case. Rather than using a traditional glass e-ink display, Popslate used a next-gen plastic screen, which is supposedly shatter-proof and crack-proof! The first thing you’ll say after seeing the display is “wow!”. People are very impressed and befuddled with what they’re looking at. Without actually changing the image, most people are quick to think it’s a custom case. Some images look realer than others.

There’s a single button on Popslate. It’s below iPhone’s volume buttons. The functionality is very simple, it toggles you through your stored photos. Photos on the case change in a mere second or two. Right now the only other thing the button does is turn the device off, which helps with pairing. A device that’s turned off looks exactly the same. It still displays an image, even when the battery dies. Popslate’s built-in battery is supposed to last about a week. The case charges with an included micro-USB charger.

Like most e-readers, the Popslate has a black and white display. Nicely, it does a really good job of hitting the various shades of grey and converting your images to beautiful colorless photos. The app gives you some functionality to edit lighting and enhance your photos for an optimal display. The resolution looks amazing, but weirdly, small text doesn’t render as nicely as a Kindle. It could have to do with image quality, otherwise this would imply that you could clearly read about a paragraph of text at a time.

Popslate uses bluetooth to communicate between the case and the phone. The Popslate app takes care of pairing. Images, or “Pops”, transfer over in only a couple seconds.

Right now the app effectively has two main features: sending virtually any photo to your Popslate, and putting you inside of a social network for discovering, sharing, and “Pop”ing images. The social network is a really neat concept, and it’s inspiring to see what other people are Popping to their Popslate. It’s sort of like Instagram with following and sharing content. There’s already a lot of great images there to pop over to your Popslate. The app is also integrated with Instagram and you can “pop” any image from Instagram.

In the Popslate app’s current state, we wish the company would have invested more effort into giving us complete control over the screen’s content rather than forcing us into a social network that shares all our content by default. It’s not clear, but it seems the device stores 8 photos. Right now there’s no way to remove images or change images without popping 8 new photos to the device, but we’re sure this will change soon. There’s also not yet support for popping anything that’s not an image (i.e. notes).

There’s a lot of potentially awesome features we’re hoping are rolled out sooner than later. It would be great to put Popslate into shuffle mode where it automatically changes images every hour or so. Of course we’re looking forward to being able to upload calendars, todo lists, and notes without taking a picture of it. Then, we’d also like content to automatically refresh, like weather, agenda, news feeds, Instagram feeds, etc. Lastly, and probably the most obvious: we want to use it like an e-reader. After all, that’s how we’ll really conserve iPhone battery.

Theoretically, Popslate should cut down on iPhone’s battery. It could, but not in the current implementation. You’ll probably use more battery with the bluetooth connection and popping over images than you would can save by not unlocking your phone as much. With a more seamless and automatic process, it’s definitely possible.

Popslate is truly an awesome case. Was it worth the two-year wait? If you didn’t have money on the table, then definitely. Still, there’s going to be a lot of very happy customers over the next couple months. Luckily most of the case’s shortcomings will can be fixed in future updates. Our only non-software gripe is that it’s a bit chunkier than we’d prefer from a case that doesn’t charge. That won’t stop us from using it though; it’s too much fun changing our iPhone case whenever we want, as much as we want, with anything we want. Popslate is currently available in black or white for $129.00 from Popslate.com.

The Good: Completely customizable, Very clear display, Good battery life, Power supply is independent from iPhone, Buttons easy to access, Nice protection

The Bad: App/firmware requires some very necessary improvements, Doesn’t seem ideal for reading, Only for iPhone 6 at the moment, Chunkier than your average case

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