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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 They’ve been replaced by small gesture areas – both front and rear – which are less than ideal, and were annoying even in the short time we spent with the phone.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)

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Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
The InkCase puts a Kindle screen on the back of your smartphone
InkCase ebook Tilt

The clever Yotaphone has a pair of screens: A regular touchscreen on the front, and an E-Ink screen on the back, which is used for displaying static images like maps, tickets or notes. But what if you don't want to give up the phone you have? Wandering the show floor at Mobile World Congress 2014, we stumbled across the InkCase from Oaxis, which coverts your phone into a Yotaphone-like device.
The case connects using Bluetooth Low Energy to your phone. It interacts with special, proprietary apps installed from the respective app store. These include an e-reader app, an image gallery, and a sports app, all of which were demoed at the show. The sports app showed a RunKeeper-style page, which could be refreshed every five to sixty seconds. Additionally, apps for notifications, the weather, and financial charts are also available. A button below the screen turns the page of an e-book, or cycles through your open apps.
It adds around 50 grams in weight to your device, and on the iPhone, effectively doubles its thickness. In terms of size and bulk, think of it like an external battery pack case. It has its own power, but the standby time quoted was a disappointing four days. Oaxis will produce InkCase cases for the iPhone 5 and 5S, the Galaxy S4, Note 2 and Note 3, plus the Nexus 5.
Both the iPhone and the Note 2’s InkCases clip on to the phone, but the Galaxy S4 version mounted the E-Ink screen on a cover, in a similar style to Samsung’s own Flip Cases. Screen sizes vary too, with the Note 2’s display measuring 4.3 inches, and 3.5 inches on the iPhone.
Oaxis has the InkCase i5 for the iPhone and the InkCase N2 for the Note 2 on sale through its own website now. The other versions will follow in the future, and the intention is to offer them in both the U.S. and the UK. The price has been set at $130, which is quite expensive, given you can buy a Kindle for less than half that figure.

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YotaPhone update suddenly makes the dual-screen handset look much more enticing
second generation yotaphone photo 4

The dual-screen YotaPhone turned quite a few heads when it was officially unveiled at last year's MWC. In a market where so many of the products look and feel much the same, the Russian company behind the YotaPhone offered a handset with a twist – not one but two displays. The first comes in the form of a conventional high-definition color touchscreen while the one on the opposite side features, more interestingly, a Kindle-like E-ink display.
A year on – despite it being only a few months since the device finally hit the market – the company has unveiled an updated model, again at MWC.
E-ink display
The new version now sports a 4.7-inch E-ink display, a significant increase over the 4.3 inches of the original model. But more importantly, it's now touch sensitive. That's right – on the old model you controlled the E-ink display via a touch zone below the screen, but not anymore.
There's more detail in the display, too, with its pixel resolution boosted to 960x540, up from 640x360.
Color touchscreen
The color touchscreen has grown as well, to a decent 5 inches (1920x1080 pixels). The relatively small screen sizes on the old model were a bit of a drawback, making it look outdated by today's standards, but the introduction of these decent-size displays are sure to encourage more consumers to take a closer look at this intriguing device.
The second-generation YotaPhone is a little slimmer than before, while the square corners on the old model have been rounded off. The rear-facing camera remains at a respectable 12 megapixels, while the front side, previously sans camera, now comes with a 2-megapixel shooter.
Improvements under the hood of this unusual Android phone include a new quad-core processor, a step up from the old dual-core offering.
Quick-access notification center
YotaPhone's secondary display can be used as a quick-access notification center for a range of information, from the time to social media updates to new messages to weather reports.
If you're an e-book fan or regular user of text-heavy sites, the E-ink display will get plenty of use, while the regular HD color screen is still there for viewing photos and video, playing games, and the like.
And with fast-draining batteries still an issue for so many smartphone owners, the device's low-power E-ink display could be a real boon for many users, with the company claiming more than 50 hours of use on a single charge.
The new YotaPhone hasn't been priced yet, though it's expected to cost around the same as a high-end Android smartphone when it goes on sale later this year in Europe and the Middle East. Disappointingly, there's still no word on a US release.

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Quirky dual-screen Yotaphone goes on sale, but it won’t be coming to America
yotaphone officially goes on sale but not in america 1

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.

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