The unusual Yotaphone has been officially put on sale this week, following its successful CES 2013 launch earlier this year. So what makes it unusual? It has got two screens, a standard LCD on the front, and an e-paper display on the back. The benefit is to have an always-on screen to show important information, without putting a strain on the battery or waking the device up each time.
When we spent some time with the phone during Mobile World Congress, the feature was demonstrated using a aircraft boarding card, a fixed map of the area, and pages from an ebook. It doesn’t stop there, as the screen can display almost anything seen on the primary display, including Twitter updates, calendar entries, or news. A selection of apps make it easy to personalize what’s shown too.
There’s a gesture control panel to shoot screenshots over to the rear screen, and it can also be used to navigate around the Android operating system. Sadly, the Yotaphone isn’t particularly up to date in this area, as it runs 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The primary LCD display measures 4.3-inches and has a 720p resolution, while the rear screen is the same size, but with a 360 x 640 pixel resolution.
Other technical specs include a dual-core, 1.7GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel camera, and a basic 1-megapixel video call lens. There’s 32GB of onboard storage, 4G LTE connectivity, and the phone comes in either black or white. The 1800mAh battery may not sound very large, but as the electronic paper screen consumes very little energy, even though it’s always on, it should be adequate.
Unfortunately, the Yotaphone you see here won’t be coming to America. It’s on sale in Russia, Germany, Austria, France, and Spain this week for 500 euros – that’s $680 – and will be released in a further 15 countries including the UK by the end of March 2014. Yota says future versions of the phone may still make it to the U.S. though.
So, is the Yotaphone destined to be a big hit? Well, the phone is an innovative and quirky little thing, but we’re still not sure about how useful it’ll be in the real world. That said, this is exactly the type of smartphone we love to see, as it’s not afraid to try something new so it stands out. For that reason alone, it should be embraced.