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How the new Onyx smartwatch solves a critical wearable problem

The new Onyx smartwatch could boast incredible battery life thanks to its spangly E ink display.

Wearable tech is where it’s at right now. All the major players are either in the game or polishing up their tools, ready to get involved, but Chinese company Onyx International looks set to join the fray with something a little bit different, which could have a massive impact – provided they get it right.

The Onyx smartwatch is one of the first E ink wearables to be launched
The Onyx smartwatch is one of the first E ink wearables to be launched

The company is working on a smartwatch which will be fronted by an E ink display, which should offer great legibility, especially in bright conditions, less stress on your peepers and, critically, amazing battery life that could stretch to weeks.

Battery life has already proved a major stumbling block for most smartwatches packing traditional LCD panels, including the Moto 360, which was reportedly struggling to last even a single working day before a recent patch.

The Onyx watch, which was recently given the once-over by Liliputing, is waterproof, has a 1.56-inch display, pedometer, Bluetooth (for syncing with a smartphone) and can also help you count calories. So far, much like every other smartwatch out there. The prototype device is controlled by three buttons on the side, which allow you to navigate menus and options, but that could be upgraded to a fully-functioning touchscreen by the time it goes on sale.

Unfortunately the Onyx watch won’t be with us by Christmas – the expected release date is 2015.

Perhaps the main selling point for a device with a lower-tech display is that it won’t have the same voracious appetite for juice as more lustrous LCD screens. The Onyx smartwatch’s screen will only use power when refreshing, which will remove a major drain from what is likely to be a small cell.

Of course, the Onyx watch isn’t the only E ink wearable currently in production. Pebble’s already built a large following for monochromatic smartwatches and Sony has already launched its SmartBand Talk, which is a ‘sleek and stylish waterproof lifelogger’ in the company’s own words. This wristband packs a 1.4-inch E Ink screen with a 192dpi resolution, plus an accelerometer and altimeter. It can (rather creepily) detect when you’re asleep and even be used to take and place calls.

One of the Onyx watch’s likely rivals is Microsoft’s upcoming wearable, which is reportedly getting ever closer to the market. Reports suggest that it may have already been submitted for FCC approval – which would put it bang on target for the pre-Christmas arrival which we reported earlier in the week.

Would you buy a long-lasting, E-ink toting smartwatch over a dazzling LCD offering? Let us know in the comments below.

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