The Minimal Phone is an Android phone with a screen that bucks almost every trend in the modern smartphone space. Instead of a big screen with vibrant colors and a high refresh rate it has a small black and white E Ink display positioned above a physical keyboard, making the phone look a bit like a modern BlackBerry.

First unveiled in January, the Minimal Phone is expected to ship in August, 2024. And the company behind the phone is raising money to complete production through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign: Backers can reserve a Minimal Phone by paying $350 or more.

$350 is the Early Bird price for a Minimal Phone, which the company says is marked down from a $450 retail price. It’s possible that crowdfunding prices could go up a bit if the Early Bird rewards sell out.

In case the name of the phone didn’t spell it out, the Minimal Phone isn’t expected to be a do-everything powerhouse. Instead it’s made to be a basic phone that offers something closer to a distraction-free experience thanks to its small grayscale display.

E Ink screens are often used in eBook readers like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s NOOK devices because they offer a more paper-like viewing experience. They’re high-contrast, low-power displays that can be viewed using only ambient light, although they tend to look better in dimly lit environments if you shine a light on the front of the screen, so most modern eReaders have front lights embedded in the sides of the display.

Since the screens themselves don’t emit light, many people find that they experience less eye strain when looking at them. And since they only consume power when the image on the screen is changed, you can get very long battery life from devices with E Ink displays if you’re not looking at high-motion graphics.

And the phone’s other specs are decidedly budget or mid-range: the Minimal Phone has a MediaTek MT6769 processor (which seems to be an octa-core processor with 2 ARM Cortex-A75 cores, six Cortex-A55 cores and Mali-G52 MP2 graphics), 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

It’s not going to be a speed demon, but the phone should be able to run a wide variety of apps since it ships with Android 13 software. And the company says its 4,000 mAh battery should offer up to 4 days of battery life, which is 2-3 days longer than you’d get from most other Android phones.

While you’re probably not going to want to spend a lot of time watching videos or playing games with 3D graphics on this phone, its said to have a high-resolution screen with 300 pixels per inch and a “high refresh rate,” which is… a relative term when talking about E Ink. We’ve seen other E Ink displays that can offer refresh rates as high as 15 or 20 frames per second, which is enough to make videos watchable (just barely), but you usually have to put up with ghosting (remnants of previous images stay on the screen).

Fortunately The Minimal Phone has a workaround – an E Ink refresh button on the side of the phone that you can push any time the display looks a bit messy. This should force a full screen refresh, making everything look a little sharper.

But I’d still recommend watching Minimal’s introductory video to see what the company’s E Ink display looks like on prototypes of the phone before getting too excited about the possibilities of this E Ink smartphone. And it’s worth pointing out that the prototype shown in the video and some real-world photos doesn’t look nearly as polished as the rendered images.

Other features include a USB-C port and support for 18W wired charging, as well as support for wireless charging (it sounds like this may be a work-in-progress, as wireless charging capabilities are only described as “less than 20W”).

The phone also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mic and speakers on the bottom of the phone and a headset speaker near the top. There’s an 8MP front-facing camera and a 16MP rear camera with an LED flash.

There’s a fingerprint reader for security, and other sensors include a G-sensor for automatic screen rotation as well as a compass, proximity, and light sensors.

Wireless capabilities include support for WiFi 4, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, and all major US wireless networks, although last I heard the phone only supported 4G LTE networks, but not 5G.

The Minimal Phone measures 121 x 72 x 10mm (4.74″ x 2.83″ x 0.39″).

The Minimal Phone (prototype)

Keep in mind that this is a crowdfunded device from a startup, which means that you’re not exactly pre-ordering a phone if you back the Indiegogo campaign. Instead you’re helping the phone’s makers raise the money needed to complete the phone and bring it to market, so there’s a chance that even if the project is fully funded, the finished phone could take longer than anticipated to ship or fail to live up to its promises. Or it might never ship at all.

So the reason to back a campaign like this is because you want a phone like the Minimal Phone to exist, not because you expect you’ll need a new phone in August.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that while the company says its working with an established manufacturer that has experience making Android phones and hopes to be able to include the Google Play Store and other Google Mobile services, the Minimal Phone has not been certified by Google and there’s no mention of Google Play on the crowdfunding page. So you may have to sideload apps or install a third-party app store if you want to use the Minimal Phone for more than reading eBooks, web browsing, or using a few of the other apps that will come included with the phone.

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  1. It is all about the right apps being available and compatible. I love the idea, but if my continuous glucose monitor app and NFC integration doesn’t work it is dead in the water. This would be the same for most NFC integration (transit, payment, etc.).

      1. Right. Most American carriers already won’t allow this phone because of it’s lack of 5G capability.

    1. For me 5G would be a deal breaker…there’s no reason to have 5G with this phone. To demand it…say’s something else?

      For those interested in these e-ink style phones…give the Light Phone II a look, I’ve been using mine for about a year now and its changed my life.

      Best,
      Steven(Liquid Cool)

  2. Would Liliputing be able to secure an interview and hands on with the prototype? Love to read your thoughts on the device.

  3. I’ve seen this device discussed on Reddit several times, and there’s a lot of doubt about whether this product is real. I recall seeing a discussion about the fact that the creators disabled the comments on IGG for non-backers, because there were a bunch of comments about the legitimacy of the product.

  4. I’ve backed hundreds of Kickstarters, even if they had the expertise (they don’t) there is no way that they could ship a fully functioning phone (from the breadboard e-ink and renders that they seem to have now) four months after funding ends, this project is essentially impossible on this timeline, where’s the project plan, let me take a guess…May – hardware, June – software, July – shipping.

  5. If it does text, email, book reader, audio books, podcast, actual phone, it does 99% of what I need and I am interested. @David G , the big space bar may just be a prototype thing, not a deal breaker for me.

  6. So big space bar button convince me this is fault design. What is the point having a so big space bar (6 keys wide) when you could have other 4 or 5 free keys on that space?