Onyx already makes a bunch of Android-powered tablets that have Amazon Kindle-esque e-ink displays — a few pricier ones even have color variants of those paper-like screens. While we did like those big-screen devices for their use cases, Onyx wants to replicate the same approach for smaller devices as well. The Boox Palma is a pretty unique handset that looks like an e-reader but is powered by Android, making it a far more versatile device than any e-reader.
The Boox Palma looks close to an average smartphone from the front. It has a decently sized 6.13-inch e-ink display with an 824 x 1648-pixel resolution (300 PPI), which isn’t too shabby for screens of this kind. The display is surrounded by fairly thick bezels, reminding one of Nokia Lumia phones running Windows \ from back in the day. The company notes that scrolling on the device won’t feel jittery like it does on Kindles.
As mentioned, the handset comes running Android 11, though, as you’d expect, the interface is entirely grayscale with line art icons for better contrast. You can download a whole host of apps from the Play Store, but without a colorful UI, the experience won’t be as complete. Perhaps that’s how Onyx intended the device to be — a secondary detox phone rather than your regular phone that keeps you hooked all the time.
One of the device’s marketing images (included below) demonstrates an iPhone StandBy-like interface, showing the time along with the calendar. While Onyx hasn’t detailed what exactly it’s supposed to do, one can guess that the handset could double up as a smart desk accessory. And it should be easy for the Palma to pull off since it comes with a decent 3,950mAh battery and e-ink displays are known to be energy efficient.
It’s got an earpiece at the top and a microphone at the bottom, just like any other smartphone. But the Boox Palma is not a cellphone because it doesn’t take a SIM card. You can still use messaging apps like WhatsApp and Google Meet to make and receive calls. Considering the device is powered by an unnamed octa-core Snapdragon chip with 6GB of RAM, performance shouldn’t be an issue for basic stuff.
You can use a microSD card to expand the Palma’s 128GB of onboard storage, while the company has also included an extra side button that you can customize to your preference. A 16MP camera sits on the back, but we can only comment on its image quality after spending some time with it.
At a retail price of $280, the Boox Palma looks like a solid deal, at least on paper (via Good e-Reader). It is indeed quite a unique device with its Android interface and a B/W display, which can work for you if you want a secondary minimalist phone that doesn’t overwhelm you. For everybody else, our selection of top budget phones will do the trick just as easily without compromising on the experience.