Three things to know about popSlate

E-paper isn't new, but slapping a sheet of it on the back of your iPhone is, with popSlate confident not only that its case is the best around for Apple's smartphone, but that it can build a social network around it. They're ambitious plans, but enough to persuade crowdfunding backers to part with more than $200k two years ago. Still, there are some things to consider before you wallpaper your iPhone with E Ink.

It’s built around Instagram for e-paper

popSlate's social community is a little like Instagram or Flickr only with the colors turned down. Everyone has a unique profile, and you can either browse through existing images – either organized into categories, or by those people you "follow" – or take your own, either loading them from the camera roll or snapping them directly within the popSlate app.

Around 150 beta testers have been using popSlate in the wild for the past few months, many of them sharing images publicly, and that means there are already plenty of photos to choose from. popSlate calls that "re-popping", and you'll get notified whenever one of your pictures is used by someone else.

Not all images are created equal

When you're working with a 4-inch 400 x 240 e-paper display, that only supports monochrome not color, some photos are going to look better than others. popSlate works best with high-contrast images and bold shapes, and the integrated photo editing tools allow you to quickly tweak the brightness and other levels to suit the nature of the E Ink screen.

As for text, fonts smaller than around 12 points can start to get a little crunchy. With storage for eight images at most, meanwhile, this isn't going to replace your Kindle.

Power-users might be better off waiting

Right now, popSlate is in its infancy: the first generation case is more a reward to early backers from the 2013 Indiegogo campaign than anything else. In this iteration, it's more along the lines of a customizable fashion case – albeit one that paints its changing pictures in low-res monochrome – than a usability improvement.

New software, planned for the coming months, will change that. popSlate has initially turned to IFTTT, the IoT backbone, to link together online services like Google Calendar and Gmail: register your accounts, and – when the firmware is updated – you'll be able to have message notifications, schedule reminders, and more all pushed to the case.

Following that will be native support for iOS apps, cutting IFTTT out of the equation for the core functionality at least, while third-party software and services will be able to tap into popSlate's API and SDK.

Want to know more on popSlate? Check out the full SlashGear review for all the details!

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