YotaPhone, which released its first smartphone last year, is having another shot at the smartphone market with the YotaPhone 2.
The device is a high-spec Android-based handset with specs to match many Android flagships. There is something different about the device, though. Flip it over and users will see a low-power e-paper display, fully integrated into the device.
"Everyone wanted capacitive touch to extend across the full eInk screen, even we saw that in the design! There was a lot of discussion about the best size for the phone. The team has went with a five-inch screen, this felt obvious," said CEO Vlad Martynov in an interview. "But the biggest call from the Android community was to mirror the whole Android experience on the eInk display. We call it YotaMirror, and it allows any Android app to run on the low-power display."
Yota, which is the Russian broadband company behind the smartphone, makes a number of devices, but the YotaPhone is different because of the rear display. While the rear e-paper display cannot show anywhere near as many colors as a normal display, it does take up substantially less power. An obvious use of this display would be for e-books, and the device even comes with a dedicated e-book app. It's also possible to put a screengrab onto the rear display, where the image remains visible even when the phone is off or the battery conks out, so it could display a local map if you're traveling or your airline boarding pass.
The rear display on the new device is a vast improvement over the first YotaPhone's e-paper display, which was not a touch screen and was not able to work with normal Android apps.
"YotaPhone 2 takes the whole concept to the next level," continued Martynov. "We've reached 100 hours of reading on a single battery charge, you can run all your basic phone features from the second screen using the 'YotaEnergy' mode, which can increase your phone's endurance three times over, and because we have full touch, those functions work well in bright sunlight in a power-efficient manner."
The device is currently only available in one color, which is a dark off-black which matches the eInk display, making the rear display seem less like a display and more like just the back of the phone which happens to be able to display things.
"We've worked on a clear vision of what a second display can mean for consumers, but we've focused on making this handset a mass-market product. Since the demo units were seen at MWC [Mobile World Congress], we've spent months making sure this is a high-quality product that delivers on our promise," said Martynov.
The device doesn't come cheap, however. The YotaPhone 2 will set the user back £550 in the U.K., which equates to around $860 in the U.S. It is currently available in Europe, and is expected to reach the U.S. at some point in the near future.