Most modern smartphones have LCD or OLED displays, but Chinese electronics company Hisense has been cranking out models with E Ink displays for the past few years.
The latest model is the new Hisense A9, which is a phone with 6.1 inch E Ink display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor, and support for up to
6GB 8GB of RAM and 128GB 256GB of storage. It’s up for pre-order in China for 1,799 CNY (~$270) and up. Global customers can pick one up from AliExpress – just make sure to check the network bands to see if you can actually use it as a phone where you live.
The starting price is for a model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but it only costs 100 CNY (~$15) to upgrade to 6GB of memory.
What sets this phone apart from most modern phone is the screen, which is a greyscale electronic paper display featuring 300 pixels per inch. E Ink’s black and white screens provide a paper-like viewing surface that’s easily visible in direct sunlight without. In fact, E Ink screens often look better when there’s a bright light shining on them, as they’re designed to be viewable using ambient light (although, like most modern E Ink devices, the Hisense A9 also has front-lights that shine on the screen to make it easy to see in the dark).
Another upshot is that E Ink displays tend to have much lower power consumption than LCD or OLED displays, as they only use power when the imagery on the screen is refreshed. That means the phone can display a static image or text indefinitely even when your phone’s battery is dead.
That said, the phone’s E Ink Carta 1200 display only supports 16 shades of grey, rather than the millions of colors that you get from most other smartphone displays. And it has a slow refresh rate that’s probably good enough for web browsing or simple apps and games, but which will make the Hisense A9 a poor fit for watching videos or playing high-motion games.
The smartphone ships with Android 11 software pre-installed, features UFS 2.1 storage, has an ES9318 digital audio chip with support for LDAC, AAC, SBC, and AptX Bluetooth audio codecs.
The Hisense A9 supports 4G LTE, dual-band WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.0. And the phone weighs 183 grams (6.5 ounces) and measures 7.8mm (0.31 inches) thick.
Other features include a 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, a side-mounted fingerprint reader, a 4,000 mAh battery.
While the Hisense A9 is the newest E Ink phone from Hisense, it’s not clear the new model is actually an upgrade over the previous-gen Hisense A7. That phone has an older, but comparable Unisoc T7510 processor, but it also features a larger 6.7 inch E Ink display, a bigger battery, similar memory and storage, and support for 5G networks. There’s also a version available with a color E Ink display.
But despite the fact that the Hisense A7 is an older phone, it’s still a little higher priced. It currently sells for 1,999 CNY (~$300).
Update: When the Hisense A9 first launched in 2022 it was available with 128GB of storage and up to 6GB of RAM, but in February, 2023 Hisense added an 8GB/256GB configuration.