The launch of the ASUS ZenPhone Selfie, a smartphone – well, obviously – optimized for taking selfies, put me in mind of other dedicated, specialized phones out in the market right now. Smartphones, remember, are increasingly commoditized, and differentiation is ever more important, especially for the East Asian manufacturers who pursue market share as their prime goal. You have the Sony Xperia C4, desperately jockeying for the title of "world’s best selfie smartphone." You have the Samsung Galaxy Note, purposed for taking notes, receiving input, and generally making standalone tablets obsolete. You have the LG G Flex and the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, for those who need a little curve on their screen – but who bend in different ways. And for those still wedded to texting, you have the BlackBerry Classic.
So, with all these tweaks and takes on the basic smartphone format, does the current cellphone market have room for a phone that puts e-reading foremost? Arguably, the nearest thing to a dedicated handheld library phone right now is the YotaPhone 2, illustrated in this article, which has attracted some rave reviews for its touch-sensitive E Ink backscreen. At 4.7 inches with a 960 x 540 resolution and 235 ppi, this is seriously competitive with the Kindle, if you’re comfortable with that size, and feel that this approach is a convincing e-reading solution rather than a gimmick. I’m a bit sceptical – perhaps unfairly. The curved design with its wide bezels just doesn’t feel to me like something that is dedicated to putting as much text in front of you as comfortably as possible. But I could be persuaded on that.
Meanwhile, the phone that should in principle have nailed the dedicated e-reading niche, the Amazon Fire Phone, turned out to be a huge disappointment. There’s nothing wrong in principle with the screen itself, a 4.7" HD LCD display, with 1280 x 720 resolution at 315 ppi, and good brightness and colour contrast, although perhaps it could have been a little larger. But the essentially wasted effort put into the Dynamic Perspective interface, and the absence of the Google Play Store and a persuasive software package left this as a huge wasted opportunity. What if, for instance, it had a back made of a Kindle Paperwhite screen instead of glass?
So, by way of a lead-in to an upcoming Teleread poll, I’d like to ask readers what they see as the best capabilities with current technology for a dedicated e-reading smartphone? Is it all about screen size? Resolution? E-paper rather than the usual smartphone screen? Software and easy access to ebook libraries? And is there really a place in the market for a phone that advertises itself as your ideal portable e-reading platform? Your thoughts invited.