We have heard of phones with twin displays before, but Yota Devices have come up with a totally new concept a phone with a conventional LCD display on one side and an e-paper one on the other. But does this actually deliver any value to the consumer?
On first glance, the YotaPhone looks like a phone from a slightly older generation. Do not get us wrong it does not look bad at all. We got the jet black model and it looked very smart on our desks and in our hands. It is just that the proportions and display seem from another day and age. The main display, for instance, is 4.3 inches and the phone itself seems to taper in thickness from the low to the high on the sides, being a bit thicker towards the base of the device. There are no buttons at all on the front no, not even touch shortcut buttons, although the presence of relatively large bezels means that the phone does seem a bit on the longer side. There is a volume rocker on the left, the 3.5 mm audio jack and the SIM card slot on the top and the micro USB port at the base. The real innovation comes to the fore when you flip the phone on to its back. For, instead of the regular back cover and camera, what you get to see is another display, but this is an e-ink one, similar to the one you get to see on e-book readers like the Kindle. Again, there are no buttons here, and just below the display is a 13.0-megapixel camera with a flash. It might look a bit too small and the change in thickness on the sides might strike some as unusual, but when switched off, the phone looks like a slab of ebony. And it is compact enough to fit most hands with a degree of comfort, although at 146 grammes, it is certainly a bit on the heavy side. All in all, not bad at all on the looks side.
Decent hardware, old Android
In terms of hardware too, the YotaPhone seems to be adequate rather than spectacular. The 4.3 inch display on the front has a resolution of 1280 x 720, while the one at the back has a resolution of 640 x 360. It is powered by a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and has 2 GB RAM and 32 GB internal memory. It doesn’t support external memory cards. The device has twin cameras a 13.0-megapixel one with a flash on the back and a 1.0-megapixel one at the front. Connectivity options include 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Rather surprisingly, the device runs on Android 4.2.2, which is a bit old by today’s standards. But then again, we don’t think anyone will be considering this device for the hardware or the software.
A different experience
What the YotaPhone claims to deliver is a very different mobile phone experience, thanks to that e-ink back display. And in this, it succeeds to a large extent, although one does have to get used to the interface. As there are no buttons on the front and the back of the device, basic navigation happens through swipes on the touch panel below the display on the front screen, a swipe to the left takes you a page back, a swipe to the right takes you to the home screen and a double tap reveals recent apps. On the back e-ink display, a swipe to either side unlocks the screen, while a swipe to the left dismisses a notification. In principle, these gestures should work fine, but we found them to be a erratic, especially on back e-ink panel, which seemed to respond just a trifle slowly to our swipes. But to move on to the phone experience itself, the concept of the YotaPhone is simple you can use the main side of the device as your main phone, and the back as a large notification and reading area. The back, e-ink display is actually never switched off, but it consumes very little battery as any user of the Amazon Kindle will tell you. So in essence, you can keep your phone face down on a desk and keep seeing notifications about new mails and social network updates on the back itself, without the phone guzzling too much battery. A point that needs to be stressed here is that not ALL apps will run on the e-ink display. So do not go about having delusions of playing games on it. It is basically a notification and reading area, and it does that task reasonably well. However, for most routine tasks, you will have to keep returning to the main display. For instance, you cannot compose any messages or mails on the e-ink display, so every time you wish to text or message, you will have to flip the phone around. Also, we did not see a massive difference in battery life a day with push mail and social networks buzzing. Call and sound quality are good, and the camera takes some very good images if the light is right you can also transfer them to the e-ink display with a two fingered swipe. The phone itself is a decent rather than spectacular performer we did experience the odd lag while playing highend games and in multi-tasking.
The YotaPhone is one of the most innovative devices we have seen for a while but at Rs. 23,499, it is an expensive proposition. The e-ink display is a wonderful touch but the gesture interface and the absence of apps reduce its utility. Give it a try if you want something that is militantly different from the run of the mill phone. But if what you are looking for is a high-performance device, then you would be better served by the Lenovo Vibe X2 or the OnePlus One, which offer better specs at lower prices.
- - Innovative e-ink display on back
- - Good camera and sound
- - Interesting UI
- - Gesture controls not smooth
- - Not enough apps for e-ink display
- - Old Android