YotaPhone, the dual-screen smartphone that was first unveiled last year, goes on sale in Russia this week and will expand to more than 20 markets in Europe and the Middle East by the end of the first quarter of 2014.
On one side of the 4.3-inch smartphone is a standard 720×1280 LCD; on the other, an electronic paper display with a resolution of 360×640.
We spent some time with the YotaPhone at CES 2013; in terms of specs and design, the final product remains pretty much the same as the version we saw. By late 2013 standards, the dual-core processor with 2GB of RAM running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean left me wanting more. But the way the phone’s two screens work together is still unique in its own right.
The YotaPhone is designed to use the two screens in tandem. You can use the LCD screen of the phone as you normally would: for watching videos, browsing web pages, running apps. The rear e-paper is used to display more persistent reference information — think maps, notifications and calendars. You can push information from the main display to the e-paper display.
When we spoke to Yota Device CEO Vladislav Martynov at CES, he told us that the company had plans for specific apps designed for the e-paper screen, including an app that acts as a goal counter. Other apps that will ship with the phone include a social news reader, an organizer and a language learning tool. The company is also preparing to release an API so that developers can create their own apps.
In a lot of ways, the goals of e-ink display on the YotaPhone are similar to the types of information displayed and accessed by smartwatch devices such as the Pebble or Galaxy Gear. A power efficient secondary display lets users access notifications, calendar appointments and messages in one place, without having to interact with the main phone.
However, with the steep debut price of 500 Euros (about $680), the YotaPhone may have issues gaining mass appeal.