Pocket Read 口袋阅 - An e-Ink Mobile Phone/Reader

3 minute read

I love e-Ink. So far I haven’t found any electronic reading experience that can match ink-screen. My iPhone and iPad Pro are certainly convenient and functional as a mini-computer on the move. But reading books or long articles is just not something I can bear.

Kindle is excellent. I have owned two of them. The most recent one - Kindle Paperwhite - is my regular reader. I also have a Boox Note which is sizable enough to offer a more comfortable reading on PDF and essays. And it’s quite functional as an Android device. Both Kindle and Boox offer me different kind of reading experience depends on the occasions.

Last week I came across a new eInk device from a random jd.com browsing (By the way, by now JD probably figured out I’m a fan of eInk!). It is a Tencent product with a catchy name “Pocket Read” (口袋阅). On a nutshell, it is a mobile size eInk reader, but also a phone that can make calls and do text messaging. For a price of 800 RMB (roughly $ 114), it is an affordable gadget.

Pocket Read - Pocket Read Phone

What I like about it.

It is light and really pocket-size. Although the size of a Kindle is arguably good enough for most readers, this one can easily fit into the inner chest pocket in a business suit. A longer battery life is also an natural feature for eInk device.

As it is Tencent built, the default reading app is Tencent’s library and bookshop, which you can easily purchase online and pay using wechat wallet’s barcode. Tencent has been actively expanding its bookshop and collection is good enough for Chinese readers. English books are still limited.

Tencent Pocket Read - bookshop

In terms of design, I like the nice little touch “one-button” that switch between the reader and phone mode. Once it turns into a phone, you can’t do much other than phone call and text message, not wechat or other mobile apps. I’m not a big fan of multi-tasking on an eInk device. The technology is designed for reading after all. I haven’t tested the phone call quality yet, but I don’t foresee there is a need for that. Phone-ability in device like this should really just for emergency or short call. As for text messaging, the typing feel is pretty much like in Kindle.

Another above-my-expectation feature is its voice reader. The text-reading voice doesn’t sound robotic at all.

A good usage case

I showed it to a colleague of mine who is also a gadget enthusiast. After playing around for a few minutes, she already made up her mind to get this for her sons. For a mum, the device is ideal for reading ebooks, not eye-tiring screen, and can make phone call for emergency purpose. She wants them to read books, and can be reachable over the phone. Pocket read is perfect. And…the built-in bookshop also have a parental control on the suitability of reading materials.

That’s quite a niche usage of this pocket read.

Tencent Pocket Read - make call

What is lacking?

  1. The support for English fonts. It is very limited but it is understandable as it’s a Chinese product for now.

  2. Support for wechat article reading. Most contents are shared within Wechat in China’s mobile-sphere. Kindle has a wechat app that allow one-click to send a wechat article to kindle wirelessly and reformat it to kindle-friendly. It would make sense for this pocket read to deliver this feature. After all it is a Tencent product. (I feedback this to their support them on Wechat Account)

  3. File transfer between PC and mobile. Current it supports transfer over its own cloud service, which I have yet to try out. An easier way to send eBook from a computer to this device will be desirable.

  4. The SIM dock can only support either a SIM card or a SD card. User cannot insert both. If I use SD card to transfer files, the SIM needs to be taken out during the operation. Workable but troublesome.

Tencent Pocket Read - SIM and SD Card

Pocket Read II

It is funny that I bought this V1 three days before they launched V2! It features a curvy design, more social-sharing, and faster processor. It is marketed for 1099 Yuan (~ $157). After some review reading, I don’t think the incremental 271 yuan will make me to switch. 800 RMB mark is reasonable for this play-around Phone+Reader.


Tencent Pocket Read - Hand Size

For the price of ~ 800 yuan, it’s recommendable. After owning several e-ink reading products, I come to understand that developing a good one is not easy. Its size and weight are key selling points for me. For a business traveler, being able to pick up those fragmented reading moments with a comfortable e-ink screen is a pleasant experience. The ownership of this device is worthy.