Nearly 20 years after the release of the first e-reader, the category isn’t exactly a hotbed of activity. Amazon has ruled the roost for over a decade now, in spite of the best efforts of companies like Kobo (Rakuten) and what remains of Barnes & Noble’s hardware efforts.
This week at MWC, embattled hardware maker Huawei announced that it’s getting in on the action with the MatePad Paper. With a 10.3-inch E Ink display and the ability to take notes with the company’s M-Pencil writing tool, offerings from reMarkable could ultimately be the best comparison point.
Reviewing that company’s latest product, Devin noted that the product “remains firmly in its niche” — which has been a bit of a theme with e ink products outside the Kindle universe. Huawei’s hoping to push through with a device aimed at being a little bit of everything. At its heart, it’s a massively sized reader with access to the 2 million or so titles in the Huawei Books store, as well as various other file types, including PDF.
The device runs Huawei’s proprietary HarmonyOS — a theme you’re going to see across its MWC announcements, after having lost access to Android. But that effectively makes it something more akin to an e ink tablet, albeit Huawei’s still limited access to third-party apps at the moment. What it does offer, however, are widgets for things like e-mail, notes and events.
The large screen can be split to have something like reading open in one window and 26 ms writing with the M-Pencil in the other. One of the other upshots of the software is the ability to quickly move files back and forth between a MateBook laptop. There’s also built-in translation available.
Another bit backing up the tablet thesis here is the inclusion of a microphone for notetaking and a pair of built-in speakers for audio books. There’s a fingerprint reader for security and fast charging that allows for six days of reading with a 90-minute charge for the 3625 mAh battery.
The downside to all of those features is the fact that the thing runs closer to a high-end tablet than e-reader, at €499. Due to ongoing geopolitical issues, it’s hard to imagine this thing getting a proper U.S. release at any point. Still, it’s easily one of the most interesting consumer announcements at MWC this week — which may say more about the show than the product itself.