Hands on: YotaPhone combines your phone and Kindle into one dual-screened device

YotaPhone had one of the most striking stands at Mobile World Congress. Constructed from vertical chrome bars and swooping metal shapes, examples of its first smartphone were suspended in futuristic, glowing egg-like glass containers. Unlike most other stands where you can wander on and off, here you had to pass through an entrance, but not before your pass was scanned. So what phone could possibly warrant going to so much trouble?

At first glance, the YotaPhone is a rather ordinary Android device, as it has a 4.3-inch, 720p resolution screen running almost stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. It’s only when you flip the phone over you realize just how unique it is, as on the back is another screen, only this time it’s a 4.3-inch E ink display.

Initially, you’re bowled over by the concept, as there’s no denying it’s extremely cool, but this is soon replaced by wondering why you’d need a phone with two screens – isn’t one enough? However, it clicks when it’s explained what the second E Ink screen can be used for, as it’s all about making information more accessible. Think of it as a more advanced, more information-packed version of those tiny screens on the front of closed flip phones, which displayed little more than the time and any outstanding notifications.

With the YotaPhone, almost anything can be transferred to the back screen with a simple two finger swiping gesture down the primary screen. By way of a demonstration, an airline boarding pass was zapped onto the E Ink screen, where it remains visible all the time, even after the primary screen has gone to sleep. As E Ink screens don’t refresh until you change the image, it doesn’t draw any power either.

YotaPhone - Android screenA series of specially made apps enable you to put your own messages on the screen, or it can show your Twitter feed, news or at its most helpful – SMS messages, missed calls, the weather, time and location data. E Ink screens are more commonly found on e-readers like the Kindle, and as you’d expect, e-books can be read on the YotaPhone’s second screen. Because it’s E Ink, the YotaPhone’s rear screen can be read in direct sunlight, making it easier to see important information quickly.

Yota isn’t a fan of buttons, so the YotaPhone is almost entirely devoid of them. They’ve been replaced by small gesture areas – both front and rear – which are less than ideal, and were annoying even in the short time we spent with the phone. It was also possible to active them just by holding the phone, an unfortunate by-product of its dual-screen design. All this will need refining before the phone goes on sale – particularly on the touch strip below the E Ink screen – especially if you want to use the phone as an e-reader.

YotaPhone - curved designThe Yota is quite thick at 9.9mm and weighs 140 grams, but it feels great in the hand no matter which way round you hold it, thanks to a curvy, ergonomic shape. It has a dual-core, 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, NFC, 4G LTE connectivity, a 12-megapixel camera, and it’ll come with either 32GB or 64GB storage space.

You’ll be able to buy the YotaPhone towards the end of the year, and as Yota has already built a relationship with carriers through its modem business, we don’t think it’ll only be available as a SIM-free (unlocked) phone. The YotaPhone is exactly the type of boundary-pushing, highly innovative product we want to see at shows like Mobile World Congress, and as a piece of cool tech, it’s really exciting; but we still need convincing about the real-world, everyday benefits of the second screen.

(Photos by Ben Nelson, Envision Studio)

Smart Home

The Instant Pot Lux is a gateway drug into the pleasures of pressure cooking

The 3-quart Instant Pot Lux is one of the most affordable Instant Pots you can buy. Is it still a solid pressure cooker? Here are our thoughts on the Instant Pot Lux, a great IP baseline model.
Movies & TV

From ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to ‘Episode IX’: The most anticipated movies of 2019

This year is shaping up to be one of the biggest in a long time for Hollywood fare, with everying from Avengers: Endgame to Star Wars: Episode IX hitting theaters over the next 12 months. To make planning your theater calendar a little…
Mobile

Here’s how to take a screenshot on an iPad, step by step

The ability to capture screenshots may not be the iPad's most glamorous feature, but it's one of its most useful. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to take a screenshot on an iPad, whether it's an iPad Pro from 2018 or an older iPad model.
Home Theater

What are HDMI ARC and eARC? Here’s how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next generation technology, eARC.
Mobile

If you want Samsung's advanced folding phone, be prepared to pay a lot for it

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

Do these case images confirm a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the S10 E?

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Mobile

Verizon 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

The best iPhone 6 cases for style and protection

No one likes a bruised Apple. Scratches, scuffs, and cracks on a new iPhone 6 are enough to ruin anyone’s day. Check out the best iPhone 6 cases and get some protection on that shiny new smartphone.
Home Theater

Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

According to a report, people familiar with Spotify's plans say the company is readying a dedicated in-car music streamer that will cost $100. It will work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio system and can be controlled by voice.
Mobile

Here's how to convert a Kindle book to PDF using your desktop or the web

Amazon's Kindle is one of the best ebook readers on the market, but it doesn't make viewing proprietary files on other platforms any easier. Here's how to convert a Kindle book to PDF using either desktop or web-based applications.
Home Theater

Spotify adds artist-blocking feature, despite its denials

Though it continues to claim you can't do it, there's lots of evidence that Spotify has added an artist-blocking feature to its platform, making it easy for users to never hear a specific musician or band.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Mobile

Is 5G as fast as they’re saying? We break down the speeds

We take a look at the kinds of speeds you can expect from 5G when the networks roll out. Find out 5G compares to the last generation of network technology, what the minimum and maximum speeds will be, and what it means for us.