Most modern smartphones feature color LCD or OLED displays. But every now and then a phone maker decides to buck the trend and put out a handset with an E Ink display.
They’re not particularly common. They’re not usually all that cheap. And the E Ink display is sometimes paired with a color display on a dual-screen phone in order to make up for the shortcomings of electronic paper.
But the Hisense A5? It’s a relatively affordable smartphone with a single 5.84 inch E Ink display and Android 9 Pie software. It’s available from AliExpress for $235 and up, but Gearbest is currently selling the HiSense A5 for just $220.
The only catch? Depending on where you live, the Hisense A5 may be a better eReader or small tablet than it is a phone.
That’s because it has relatively limited support for US wireless networks. If you’re happy with 2G or 3G performance, AT&T coverage should be pretty good. But the phone only supports some of AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon’s 4G LTE network bands.
Still, at $220, the Hisense A5 is cheaper than an Amazon Kindle Oasis, and arguably more versatile.
The phone has a 5.84 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel E Ink display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Unlike a Kindle, it also has a 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera. It also has a microSD card reader, a headphone jack, and a 4,000 mAh battery.
Since it’s an Android device, you should be able to run just about any Android app on the phone — including the Kindle app as well as Kobo, Nook, or Google Play Books apps, just to name a few. Games, web browsers, and calendar apps should also work — but the relatively slow screen refresh rate might make interacting with some apps challenging.
So the price isn’t bad at all if you think of the Hisense A5 as a pocket-sized eReader that you can also use as an MP3 player and personal organizer.
If you’re thinking of it as nothing but an eReader though, there are a few down sides. The user interface isn’t optimized for reading the way a Kindle or NOOK UI is. WiFi tops out at 802.11n and Bluetooth at 4.2. The screen is front-lit, but it doesn’t support adjustable color temperature. And unlike the Kindle Oasis, the Hisense A5 is not waterproof.
On the other hand, you might be able to use it as a phone.