Why? The main mobile players - Amazon, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Google, MS - must be thinking, if they have ever thought about it, it has no market. You can interpret what businesses think, by looking at what they do. All businesses do what they think make good businesses.
I don't agree. I can prove that there is a market. At least one. I would buy an e-ink based smartphone. Here is why.
- I mostly read on my phone, which is an iPhone at the moment. I don't play games, and I don't watch videos very often. I read news articles, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Quite a lot. So, I am fine with a smartphone that provides better reading but poorer gaming or video experiences.
- I think the e-ink phone can be much cheaper. I actually have seen an e-ink phone a few years ago. This was before smartphones became popular. I think it was around 2006. I was invited to a brainstorming session at one of the major mobile phone makers, and they showed a very basic e-ink phone. I remember it was really light. They could manufacture it so cheap that giving it away for some promotion campaigns was a likely option for how to use it.
- I don't want to carry two devices, a phone and an e-reader. I can own two devices, and sometimes carry both, but usually I would rather like to carry one and be able to do the basic things. And if I had to choose one between a phone and an e-reader, it's obvious I would choose a phone.
- It consumes much less battery. I know many people complain about how their smart phone quickly runs out of battery. The e-ink display consumes much less battery. If you have both a Kindle and an iPad, you all know the difference. I am sure an e-ink smartphone will have much longer battery life than LCD-based ones. Perhaps a few days, compared to a few hours?
- It seems more durable and lighter. When you drop an iPad and Kindle, I believe an iPad is more likely to be broken. And it's much lighter as well.
Then the remaining business question for them must be how many people think like me. I don't know, but I am pretty sure I am not alone.
Or think about it this way, if you were Amazon. Launch a Kindle with a phone feature, and see how people react. Perhaps you could make it smaller to fit in a pocket, but if you don't want to invest too much for this test marketing, just add the phone function to one of your existing models. I am willing to be a test user.