This Android smartphone prototype has an E Ink display

There are quite a number of digital readers currently on the market equipped with E Ink displays.

The screens are perfect for reading in bright environments like the outdoors and consume very little power, as they require almost no electricity to maintain an image or page of text until a specific page changes.

The downside to such displays? The devices typically lack a backlight – making them unusable in the dark without an external light source. In addition, the displays are incapable of rendering video at decent frame rates.

Nevertheless, a company known as Onyx International is reportedly working on a new Android-powered smartphone equipped with an E Ink display. The image pictured above is said to be the only prototype of the device in existence, which quite frankly, really does seem like an odd handset to me.

Think about it. Smartphone users are always streaming videos and looking at photographs, activities which will almost surely be severely curtailed or at the very least, significantly altered with an E Ink display.

Then again, I’m also quite sure there are a number of smartphone owners out there who only use their device for voice calls, text messaging, e-mails, and other text-centric functions. So yes, a smartphone with an E Ink display might very well be ideal for those with a heavy emphasis on text.

As noted above, the display will also significantly increase battery life, with the current prototype apparently boasting a total runtime of one month. Of course we’re taking that claim with a very large grain of salt, as even a week of use per charge would be a huge improvement over most existing smartphones.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of additional details such as processor type or other hardware specs, but we do know the device currently runs Android Gingerbread and would likely be upgraded to at least Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) – if the handset manages to hit the market at some point in the near future.