Sat. May 18th, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • The Reink Case C1 is an E Ink phone case with an improved design and color display.
  • It works great as a protective phone case, but struggles with display quality and customization options.
  • The E Ink display uses NFC for images and works well under direct sunlight, but is lacking under most other lighting conditions.


Reinkstone attempts to solve the issues with the previous generations of E Ink phone cases by not only creating a design as thin as many standard cases but also improving the display’s aesthetic appeal with color. Unfortunately, while the Reink Case C1 makes for a fine phone case, and its promise of an infinitely changeable color screen is tantalizing, it’s still not quite there visually.

Reink Case C1

Reinkstone Reink Case C1

The Reink Case C1 protects your phone, but its color E Ink display is too limited for most use cases.

Brand
Reinkstone

Material
Tempered glass

Wireless Charging Support
Yes

Display
4-color E Ink

Accessory
Adjustable lens mount

Pros

  • Quality phone case
  • Display is visible in direct sunlight
  • No power consumption when in use
Cons

  • Display is only four colors
  • Low resolution
  • Requires a lot of effort to create a suitable image
  • No backlight
  • Limited case colors

Design: A Good Basic Phone Case

Reink Case C1 with its packaging on a table
Bill Loguidice / How-To Geek


The Reink Case C1 is available for all Apple iPhone 13 through 15 series basic, Pro, and Pro Max model phones, and is functionally identical save for the dimensions. For the iPhone 13 series, case color choices are black, while the 14 and 15 series come in black or blue. There’s also a special edition gift set for the iPhone 15 Pro Max that comes with a case featuring a black instant camera style design. Each model retails for the same $99.99 price.

The first thing that strikes you when taking the Reink Case C1 out of its packaging is that there’s no charging cable. It’s simply not needed. You just get the case, user manual, warranty, and a quick start card that tells you how to install and remove the case, use the built-in stand, and access the app.

The case is the typical protective rubber outer case, along with a tempered glass cover over the E Ink screen. The raised power and volume buttons are all easy to press. The cut-out for the rear camera lenses includes a useful stand that can be angled as far back as 115 degrees, making it ideal for watching landscape-oriented videos.


Reink Case C1 using its stand on a tabletop
Bill Loguidice / How-To Geek

As a regular protective phone case, the Reink Case C1 doesn’t disappoint. It’s essentially scratchproof and its AF molecular oleophobic coating provides excellent fingerprint resistance. It’s not considered waterproof but should have no issues with occasional splashes if quickly dried. Despite being slightly slippery, overall it felt good in the hand.

An important note is that while the Reink Case C1 supports wireless charging, it does not support magnetic attachment. For example, while the Apple MagSafe Charger charges just fine through the case, it can’t magnetically lock on to secure itself in place.

How It Works: NFC-Powered


The Reink Case C1 uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to receive data. Using the Reinkstone app from the Apple App Store, you create an image and sync it to the case, which is the only time that it draws any power.

You can use your own saved photos and other images, or select an image in the app. Once an image is selected, you crop or edit it as necessary, including adding text and background, choosing a filter, and then selecting how the color is processed. Color can be dithered, which uses small dots to recreate colors similar to old newspaper print, colorscale, which tries to match the nearest available colors, and greyscale, which both dithers and removes any color. Generally speaking, dither is the most effective option. Once done, you can save your creation to the library or sync immediately to the case.

Once an image begins to sync, the Reink Case C1 display flashes until the image is finished processing. Once done processing, the image stays until you change it again. It’s a super simple process, although the quality of the output is highly dependent on the type of source image you use.


E Ink Display: Let There Be Light

Reink Case C1 held by a woman's hand against a brick wall showing a couple's photo
Bill Loguidice / How-To Geek

The roughly 3.5-inch display includes four types of electronic ink molecules: black, white, red, and yellow. As such, images with red or yellow tones tend to display best.

The Theme option in the Reinkstone app offers a robust selection of images from 10 different categories, including Daily Office, Sayings, Illustration, and Animals. In general, these images work better than something random you add or create yourself, but not every image in the library necessarily provides optimal results.

If an image has the proper tones, it looks okay in a brightly lit environment. It does best outdoors in sunlight. Unfortunately, if the environment is a bit dark, it’s very difficult to see the display, especially since there’s no backlighting whatsoever. Purely greyscale images are really the only images that are visible in lower light situations, minimizing the value of the color screen.


My biggest disappointment with the Reink Case C1 is that making my photos and images look decent was difficult. In fact, one of the use cases that I thought would be most useful, like taking a screenshot of an important to-do list, note, address, or other information, produced inconsistent results. Ideally, I could take a quick screenshot of something like that and it would remain on the E Ink display, ready to view when I need it. While that is indeed the case, the inability to guarantee that it would display clearly renders such an activity far more labor-intensive than it should be.

In addition, even just creating straight text in the Reinkstone app didn’t produce satisfactory results. The text is heavily dithered regardless of the setting chosen and difficult to see unless you make it really large, leaving very little room for much text.


Should You Buy The Reink Case C1?

This is not an inexpensive case, but it does potentially save you from getting bored with the case you have, requiring just a quick in-app update to change the look of the back of your phone. Unfortunately, as one of the first color products of its type, the technology may be a bit too primitive for most iPhone users.

While the Reink Case C1 does what it says, providing a static color display case that draws no power, the display quality, including its four color limitation, lack of backlight, and low resolution, limits its utility. It’s a product that’s just not ready for the mass market.

Reink Case C1

Reinkstone Reink Case C1

The Reink Case C1 protects your phone, but its color E Ink display is too limited for most use cases.



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By John P.

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