Less then a month ago, I had never even seen electronic ink before. Now I'm reading books and newspapers daily on my Amazon Kindle, and telling time on the new Phosphor E Ink watch. And I hope in another month, I have even more toys powered by E Ink technology.
Electronic ink is a high-contrast, low-power display technology. It is to ink what email is to mail: fast, dynamic, practical, yet still comfortably familiar. However unlike email — which aside from the general concept, is almost nothing like traditional mail — electronic ink is actually a form of ink. Rather than a liquid dye which soaks into paper, E Ink is composed of microcapsules which are about the diameter of a human hair. Each microcapsule contains both light colored positively charged particles and dark colored negatively charged particles suspended in fluid. Electric fields are applied to the microcapsules to cause the particles inside them to polarize: some move to the top where they can be seen, and some move to the bottom where they are hidden. The result is a high contrast monochrome display that can be viewed in most lighting conditions (including direct sunlight), from any angle, and which can retain its image without having to consume power.
eBooks are an obvious use for E Ink technology since you can store hundreds of books, magazines, and newspapers on a single device. But once I saw the Phosphor E Ink watch, it was clear that electronic ink has just as bright of a future in watches.
The main advantage of having a watch with an E Ink dial is that you can easily change the look depending on what you're doing, where you're going, or what you're wearing. The Phosphor E Ink watch lets you choose from among three different hour index configurations, three different date and time modes, and either a "positive" mode (black on white), or a negative mode (white on black). Unfortunately, no mode removes the E-Ink branding at the top of the dial — space which could be better used to allow the simultaneous display of the date and the digital time.
Features of the Phosphor E Ink watch include:
- 14 different high-contrast dial configurations made possible by E Ink technology.
- Dual time zone support (sort of). Since the analog and digital portion of the watch are not connected, they can be set to different time zones.
- Stainless steel case and caseback.
- Mineral glass crystal.
- Water resistant to 50 meters, or about 150 feet (I would probably limit water exposure to dish washing and rain).
- Available with either a leather or a polyurethane strap.
At $250, the Phosphor E Ink watch is an affordable, intriguing, and very unique timepiece. Personally, I'm mesmerized by E Ink technology, and I find myself admiring and playing with this watch several times a day, wishing that all my digital watches used electronic ink. The E Ink technology in the Phosphor seems every bit as good as that in the Amazon Kindle; fonts are clear and sharp, and the contrast is about as good as a printed newspaper.
That said, the Phosphor E Ink watch is probably not the last or only watch you'll ever need. I found the analog quartz movement and digital modules to be merely adequate, and the lack of any type of illumination system, including luminescent paint, is a blatant omission. However it's a very nice looking, reasonably comfortable, extremely unique watch and high-tech fashion accessory which is certain to amaze almost everyone you know.
The Phosphor brand is owned by Hong Kong based Art Technology. Currently,Phosphor watches are only sold through the Phosphor Watches web site. Both the leather and polyurethane versions go for $250 USD.
By Christian Cantrell