Hands-on: PopSlate adds a second screen to the iPhone 6

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Gizmag goes hands-on with the PopSlate screen, which gives your iPhone 6 a second e-ink screen (Photo: Emily Price/Gizmag.com)

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If you've ever looked at something like the YotaPhone and wished you could have a second e-ink screen on your iPhone 6, you're in luck. PopSlate is a case that adds a full-sized e-ink screen to the back of the iPhone, and can be used to display everything from artwork to your Starbucks card.

"Our concept is to create an always-on screen that gives you the at-a-glance functionality and connects you with the stuff you want," Yashar Behzadi, CEO and Founder of PopSlate tells Gizmag. You can put virtually any static image on the back of the case you want. The screen is powered separately from your phone, so it will also work when your battery is dead.

After the demo we took home one of the cases which we’ve been using with an iPhone for the past week. While the experience wasn’t perfect, it did add an interesting new layer of functionality to the phone that we really enjoyed.

It’s a concept very similar to the YotaPhone, except it’s done as an aftermarket add-on to the iPhone 6, rather than as a technology built into the phone itself. If the idea sounds familiar, it’s because the company initially launched the case on Indiegogo in 2013. After running into a few supply issues, they’re finally bringing the case to market now, as well as shipping cases to its original backers.

Despite not offering any charging power for your phone, PopSlate adds a significant amount of bulk, like you'd typically find on battery cases. In fact, PopSlate is closely reminiscent of Mophie’s line of battery cases.

Transferring images to the back of the case is done through the case’s mobile app, and is called “popping.” You can pop screenshots directly from the Camera Roll on your phone to the case, or pick images from the company’s Instagram-like community. The case can hold up to eight images at a time. A button on the side of the case allows you to switch between them on the fly. So, you might have a picture of your puppy on the screen the majority of the time, but put the boarding pass for your flight in the queue as well to make things easy when you get to the gate.

The case charges via microUSB and will have enough juice to last a week after being plugged in for 100 minutes. The built-in 240 mAh battery is used exclusively for switching between images. When it dies, the case will simply continue to show the last image it displayed before running out of power.

We enjoyed being able to customize the back of the case throughout the day. It’s very simple to swap between the eight images stored on the case. Unfortunately, those images are just the eight last things you popped to the screen, so they weren’t always exactly what we wanted. For instance, when I took a picture to demo the device to a friend I lost one of the eight images I had already opted to put in the queue. The case also seemed to cycle through some of the mages on its own, perhaps because the button was accidentally tapped in my purse or while I was doing some other task on my phone.

Popping new images was also a bit of trial and error. Each time I wanted to pop something new I had to pair the case with my phone again (it connects via Bluetooth). It’s a process that takes less than 30 seconds, but one that could get pretty annoying if you’re trying to update the case daily.

Speaking of cases, PopSlate is actually a pretty solid one. I’m typically pretty rough on my iPhones. My phone took a tumble onto my kitchen floor earlier this week. A small piece of the PopSlate case came off (which we believe can be easily glued back on), but the phone got away scratch-free. Despite the small piece popping off, the PopSlate looks brand new, even after getting thrown around my purse and thrown face-down on tables all week. It’s pretty durable.

In the future, PopSlate plans to launch some IFTTT integrations with the case. With those, you would be able to have things like news stories, stock quotes and tweets pushed to the back of your phone as they come in, making it less a static art piece and more a notification center for your phone.

When those roll out we see it becoming a much more useful accessory to have around. PopSlate is available now from the product page below for US$129.

Produt page: PopSlate

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