Earl Back Country Tablet Delayed Until Early 2016 (At Least)

When the Earl was first announced in May 2013 it was an Android tablet with a 6"  E-ink screen, a solar panel, a bevy of sensors, and a firm ship date in late summer 2013.

Two years later and the Earl has gone through multiple hardware revisions, missed multiple ship dates, and it's still nowhere near ready to enter production.

According to the latest update, the Earl tablet will be delayed past the end of 2015. When or if the Earl arrives it will look nothing like the concept design we first saw two years ago:

earl survival tablet

Sqigle, the company developing the Earl, had revealed several months ago that they were parting ways with their existing hardware partner, Onyx. The two companies had concluded that they had reached the limits of Onyx's abilities and experience, so it was time to bring in a replacement.

Here's where I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that the new partner is Netronix, a company with nearly a decade of experience in developing ereaders for dozens of companies.

The bad news is that bringing Netronix in means that the entire design is getting tossed out the window, a "full reboot" as Sqigle put it. Netronix wants to use their in-house resources to develop the production unit.

They project that they'll have the Earl finished and ready to ship to backers in 9 months.

The new model will feature a modular design based around a flexible 4.7" E-ink screen, not the 6" screen found on the original prototype. Sqigle noted that after two years of working with the prototypes, "we've found a rugged tablet in most scenarios required the use of both hands. Other than reading guide books or maps, almost every other feature functions better on a smaller display."

Sqigle went on to add:

While we wait for a preliminary design from Netronix, we’re working to setup a new office here in Seattle. Working remotely with the new team will be much more manageable and it looks as though I won't need to fly as much. My next trip to Taiwan shouldn’t be until the end of May. We expected to grow into a company like Netronix, but with this opportunity we’ll have to hit the ground running. Development costs have effectively doubled, not only do we need more funding, we need more customers. We’re planning to spend the next couple months putting together a dedicated marketing, sales and support team. We fully intend to fulfill our promise, though components may have changed, the original idea is still here. We're pushing forward and with your continued support we'll be able to finally bring Earl to life!

While this is quite the dark cloud, there is a silver lining.

Two years have passed since the Earl was first announced, and in that time the ereader and mobile device markets have advanced significantly. E-ink screens are better, the frontlight is now an established technology, and mobile electronics are both cheaper and more energy-efficient that they were a mere two years ago.

Sqigle has also had two years to work on the software which will run on the Earl. Not all Android apps like running on E-ink screens; graphic intensive apps like map apps tend to choke, freeze, or crash, and Sqigle has had time to work their way through the potential conflicts.

We could see the benefit of the overlong development cycle when the Earl finally ships, but after two years of waiting I won't be getting my hopes up.

About Nate Hoffelder (11480 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

16 Comments on Earl Back Country Tablet Delayed Until Early 2016 (At Least)

  1. I am disappointed not only because of the delay, but mostly because of the reduction in screen size. 4.7 in is smaller than my current phone (S4), which I find too small for some tasks. I think 6 in. would have been perfect, and the real reason for going with 4.7 is cost. Up to now I thought I may buy one, now I know I won’t. I wish them best of luck though.

  2. If the screen ratio is still 4:3, one shouldn’t look at one’s phone to get an impression of the new size. But unless some compensation for the previous larger screen is put in, I can understand that the new specs disappoint some people. Well, I guess since the original promise for backers back then was a thirty percent discount for the Earl and all future products, it might still turn out as a good idea to have backed Earl back then, assuming that some day the company manages to bring out other devices. You’d admittedly have to be patient and optimistic. Let’s hope the best.

    • This is probably going to be the same screen as on the Yotaphone 2, which has a screen resolution of 960 x 540. That’s a 9:16 screen, not 4:3.

      But I’m just speculating; we need to wait for the official specs before drawing any conclusions.

  3. I also thought in that direction but wasn’t sure, whether they used a flexible screen for the Yotaphone 2. That might indeed make the screen even smaller then. Didn’t calculate it, but I assume it might be on par with the Pyrus mini in width, which I’m comfortable with, and be a bit larger in length then. A reconsideration of that changed aspect about the Earl wouldn’t surprise me though. A lot is still pretty vague about the new design.

  4. I predict the following headlines:

    Earl Back Country Tablet Delayed Until Late 2016 (At Least)

    Earl Back Country Tablet Now To Be A Watch

    Earl Runs Out of Money, Finally Updates On Why

  5. What a huge disappointment. Given that a Kobo H20 is waterproof, I would not wait for a so bad managed product and go instead for the Kobo. Or, if you can upstand that tiny 4.7″ display, better go for a vast more useful yotaphone 2

    They are plain stupid and/or liars. For sure the problem is not that “most of the uses involves two hands”. Come on, you imbeciles, Earl was going to be a map renderer!

    I do bet that they are almost out of money and the “only” possible solution is option for a batch of unsold 4.7″ EPD displays from e-ink corp. But for a lot of people, such tiny display for outdoors activities is going to be unacceptable.

    Now I feel great because I didn’t bet on them. They didn’t seem to be enough serious for a 300$ bet.

    • @Juan Chulilla: Your insulting tone is inappropriate. The H20 may be waterproof, but it still isn’t rugged and lacks Earl’s promised radios. What “unsold 4.7? EPD displays” do you expect to exist? Flexible displays are rather new. Anyway, good for you that you didn’t want Earl and didn’t fund the project.

      • I’m not so sure it was inappropriate. Two years have passed since the original announcement and Sqigle has admitted that they are still on square one. Had I invested in the Earl I would be furious.

        • Sqigle might be bad at communication, even among the most incompetent companies in that respect, and the recent announcement of spec changes might indeed stretch acceptable limits. There’s no need though to call anybody “imbeciles” or “plain stupid”, even if one doesn’t agree with their decisions. And especially not as an outsider with no share in the matter, suggesting completely different devices as “vast more useful” and presenting speculations as solid enough to make bets on them. All in all, the post’s wording didn’t give me the impression that its intention was anything more than insulting people with whom the author had no business.

        • I’m an Earl —well, I guess investor is as good a word as any.

          At this point, I’m just numb to the Earl saga. I’ve already written off the money, and if an Earl ever shows up, it will be just like Christmas…

          The only real good news is that I have faith in Netronix to know what they are doing.

        • Victim of the scam // 16 June, 2015 at 7:15 am // Reply

          I agree! I think Juan’s tone is appropriate! What’s insulting is how EARLs investors/victims have been treated! Maybe Jonathan Perry’s “friends” can stand the 300 dollar loss while they continue to blow smoke up his a$$ but most of the victims will feel the loss! For the record you still can not get a response from anyone at earl or register for the forum where someone MIGHT see what’s really going on! To add insult to injury the site to pre-order is still up!!!!! So apparently he has no ethical issues with bilking others!!!

    • I like the size reduction. 4.7″ makes the device quite pocketable; a definite plus. Besides, 4.7″ is much larger than any of the displays on my handheld GPS’s.

    • Victim of the scam // 11 June, 2015 at 3:28 pm // Reply

      I requested the “promised” refund multiple times. never heard from sqwuigle or anyone! Looks like I’ll be out 300 bucks!!! Complete lack of transparency is evidence of the failure this project has become! So many victims! Let’s hear all those blind supporters come to this thief’s defense again n(an easy task if you never bet your money on it!)

  6. Tried to upgrade to the fine detailed map. Wouldn’t take. Now thinking it would be wasted. So where’s the Solar Recharge? Really ready to bail out!

  7. I prepurchased an Earl. At the time, I considered it gambling and it is looking like the house is going to win this one.

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