We’ve all done it: You pull your boarding pass up on your phone while in the security line at the airport, only to have it buried behind your email and Twitter when you finally make it to the gate. One company is looking to add a second screen to your iPhone, preventing similar mishaps and adding a new layer of functionality to the device.
Enter popSLATE, the Burlingame, Calif.-based startup that turns the back of your iPhone into an always-on e-paper screen. When I met founder and CEO Yashar Behzadi at a coffee shop recently, I placed my mobile phone face down on the counter.
“The back of your phone is completely unused, underutilized, really high-value real-estate,” he said. “People do this all time. They put their phones face down, and there’s this space that just isn’t leveraged.”
The company’s new case hopes to change that, adding an e-ink screen comparable to what you might find on a Kindle to the back of your phone. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and can be used to display anything from pictures of your children to your calendar for the day.
Behzadi calls the function of moving something to the rear of your phone “popping.” For instance, you might “pop” your Starbucks card to the back of your phone while you’re waiting in line to buy your morning latte, or pop a screen shot of the directions to your friend’s birthday party to the screen before your phone’s battery dies.
The case is powered separately from your iPhone, and doesn’t require a ton of power to operate. A single 100-minute charge will keep it ticking for a week, and whatever you have displayed on the screen when the battery dies can actually stay up for years using the remaining juice. The battery power is only needed for that popping functionality. A button on the side of the case allows you to rotate through the last eight things you had on the display.
For instance, Behzadi’s personal queue includes pictures of his kids and images from popSLATE’s community. The community is a social network comparable to Instagram where users can share images they have “popped” to their case so others can use them as well. Down the line, the company also plans to make it so things like sports scores, stock prices and news stories can be pushed to the case automatically.
If popSLATE sounds familiar, it’s because Behzadi originally tried the idea several years ago with the iPhone 5. After raising funding on Indiegogo, the company ran into issues when it came to building the device’s screen.
“We’re creating a new product category, and even though there’s great consumer demand we had to bring along the supplier chain,” he says. Now the company has gotten suppliers on board, and given the tech a test drive with roughly 150 beta testers. The iPhone 6 version of the case is going out today to those who originally backed the company in 2013, and is available for sale for new customers as well.
You can buy a popSLATE today from the company’s website for $129. It plans to be available at premium retailers later this year.