Android and e-ink

Last Mother’s Day I… er… my daughter bought her mum a Kindle. I had not been interested in eReaders for myself. I had always assumed that I would end up buying a tablet rather than an eReader. After playing with my wife’s Kindle (does that sound dirty?) I found that I really like e-ink screens for readability and battery life. I wondered if there were any eReaders based on Android that I could hack to create an e-ink tablet.

Why hack an eReader to create a tablet? Why not just buy a Galaxy Tab or similar? Well for starters, it’s fun but there are other advantages. Firstly I would primarily be using it for browsing websites (researching products and technology) and the e-ink screen is the best screen for reading. Secondly with the e-ink screen on board the battery life is phenomenal. It is common place to get more than one month on a single charge. Finally it is much cheaper, an eReader goes for roughly half the price of a basic Android tablet.

After a brief search I discovered only two major eReaders built on Android; “B&N Nook Simple Touch” and “Sony Reader – PRS T1”. At first I thought the Nook was the better unit. From all reports it was easier to hack and there was a model with a “Glow-Light” (built-in, adjustable, front lighting for the screen). The downside was that it isn’t supported in Australia at the moment so I wouldn’t be able to buy any books on it. If I was to “obtain” one I would not be able to use it without hacking it. Add to this the difficulty of making a warranty claim should it fail and it became too much of a risk.

I began to lean towards the PRS T1 and soon discovered that not only was it not that much harder to hack, it was actually running a newer version of Android (meaning more apps would be compatible). In addition to this the layout of the T1 was a lot more similar to a tablet with the standard Android buttons along the bottom of the screen. I decided that my daughter, and new son, could get me the T1 for Fathers Day.

Almost at the same time as I made this decision they discontinued the T1. I suspiciously started googling for “new Sony reader” and I soon discovered that a T2 was in the works. Nothing had been announced regarding the specs but FCC details showed that it was a similar size and had wifi (no mobile data or bluetooth). I began to speculate as to new features.

Would it have the new colour e-ink screens that have been emerging? Would it have a glow-light or possibly the new “flex-lighting”? Would it have an HD e-ink screen? Well the answer is no. The specs have now been released and the T2 is much the same as the T1. The only visible changes are a new matte/brushed/satin finish and new buttons. The only functional changes are a couple of new programs. Other changes could include a minor hardware revision and OS upgrade but there are no promises. I guess we’ll just have to wait until some clever bunny gets their hands on one and starts playing…

…I’ll put up a review as soon as I get mine 😉