YotaPhone: The dual-screen Jelly Bean smartphone, in pictures

YotaPhone: The dual-screen Jelly Bean smartphone, in pictures

Summary: Russian handset maker Yota Devices is hoping its smartphone with a second e-ink screen can take the company from plucky spin-off upstart to big brand status, but what exactly is that second screen for?

TOPICS: Smartphones

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  • All smartphone manufacturers want their handsets to stand out - but few have done anything as dramatic as putting an e-ink screen — the sort of think you'd see on a e-reader — on the back of the phone.

    But Russian handset maker Yota Devices — spun out last year from Yota (known for its LTE prowess), has done just that.

    Lau Geckler, chief operating officer of the newly-formed company, hopes that the launch of this very different smartphone could help make Yota and Yota Devices brands to watch outside of its traditional markets.

  • The handset I saw at Mobile World Congress is certainly different, and the company is still experimenting with ideas and refining the final design.

    For example, I couldn't help but notice that the camera is at the bottom corner on the rear of the phone, unlike other phones.

    "We're right now testing with focus groups, getting good results using the camera upside down. We can put it up the other way in the final product if we want," Geckler said

    "This prototype is a little bit of playing, the magnetic plate (used for charging) will be moved, we also have an integrated power and SIM slot, which is a new thing. Our dream is to make a phone without any holes or any buttons."

    On the rear of the phone is a the e-ink display, which can be used to display any content that you'd normally see on the front of the phone. It actually has a lot of uses, from missed call notifications to live social network updates.

    To 'send' content from the front screen to the back, you swipe two fingers vertically down each edge of the front display, but why have the second screen at all?


  • "It saves a lot of battery and gives effortless notifications. We all know the feeling of being in a meeting and needing to check an SMS and doing it under the table. Or to check Twitter; the phone is just lying on the table," Geckler explained.

    While it sounds like that might defeat part of the battery-saving justification that underpins the e-ink display being there at all, you can also control how long you want the radios switched on for; so if you only want live data for mapping or social network updates for 10 minutes, you can set it for just that.


Topic: Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Yota is a serious company

    Having been to Moscow a few times, I've seen the popularity of Yota's products over there. They are a very serious company and (who knows?) they may be successful with this or a similar phone product. I wish them well but can't help but think we are going to see many smartphone casualties over the next couple of years. Seems like everyone will be entering the smartphone market.
    • Pixel Qi

      Why go through all this trouble when you can use one of Pixel's screens to get the same results.
      • Because the LCD quality is very low.

        The issue with the Pixel Qi screens is the overall quality of the display is poor. Meet idea. Limited appeal.
      • Zero Battery Use

        I can see advantages to haveing a display thats always on, with no battery use except when something changes.
        Paul Krueger
  • "premium android"?

    I don't think anyone that wants to spend a much money on a phone as possible considers anything but the latest iPhone.

    I'm betting they go away quickly if its not "mainstream" Android priced. At a competitive price the E-ink screen could be a "decider", at a premium price I think the value of the E-ink second screen will be a tough sell.

    If the rear camera captured decent video, the E-ink screen could make for a nice "on location" podcast Teleprompter.
    • I think you are a couple years behind

      I don't know what hole in the wall you live in- but you sound like a 2008-2010 era buyer. Your assumption is way off base.

      I think two subsequent releases of problematic iPhones, that have removed rather than add functionality (Apple Maps, Wifi) and at best added only novel functionality (Siri is good for a laugh, but Wozniak himself has stated Android voice recognition has always beaten it - and has been available from day 1).
      Compare that to Google Now's predictive functionality, it's especially a novelty.

      People who are buying premium phones are buying Android phones with NFC (wallet), GPS (Google-built-in), Google Now (predictive functionality), and large screens with keyboards that actually work - to minimize risk of sending embarrassing auto-corrects to clients (Swype, Swiftkey, etc), not to mention save the pain of trying to tap-tap-tap lengthy messages.

      IPhones seem to work well if your needs for a smartphone include 140-character-max Twitter, "like"ing things on Facebook, and playing Angry Birds - but for adults seeking a premium smartphone, I don't see why anyone in 2013 would suffer the compromises...
      ...much less pay a premium for them.
      • And by "wifi"...

        ...I mean the unresolved iPhone 5 issues with WiFi, forcing the user to network data - which is often slower, and capped.
  • durability?

    There is an obvious trend in the latest smart phones toward increased fragility. As a result, a market for protective cases has flourished. This device will obviously not work with the typical protective case, so it begs the question ... how susceptible are its two screens to abrasions and fractures?
    David A. Pimentel
  • strange

    But at least its something new
    richard in norway
  • How about a phone

    you can flip shut, with buttons instead of crappy touch screen where you get fingerprints all over what you're trying to view, and you really don't need a display for anything but maybe caller ID or to see the number you're calling. If someone would invent one of those, I'd buy!... OH WAIT I already have that, and I'm happy with it!
  • The sort of think?

    Come on, editors. I know times are tough, but what is this - child labor - child dialect?

    Fundamentally, this is a good idea. Unlike a flashing LED, it doesn't use constant power - just once, to update the e-Ink display.
    You could create more meaningful notifications than a blinking LED light, user-customizable to allow different levels of content to be exposed externally, to the user's preference.
    My only concern is if it adds to the thickness of the device - being a man (read: has to carry his phone in his pants pocket), I need the thinnest device possible.
  • VERY interesting!

    If it doesn't add to the thickness of a phone, I'd be very interested in such a phone. Right now, it's the poor battery life that oblige us to turn off the phone's display almost every instance we're not using it. The e-ink, whose drawback is being black-and-white only, has the significant advantage of using no power when the screen isn't changing. I can imagine lots of us would love an always-on screen, despite its limitations.

    Another big plus is that this screen should be easily readable in bright sunlight! (Yes, I also realize that it won't be readable in the dark.)
  • Android Innovation

    Sure, it's hard to predict whether this will be successful or not. But taking this kind of risk could only happen with Android: no other mobile platform allows you to try stuff like this without asking the permission of the platform owner first.

    Consider some of the other things Android pioneered: 16:9 aspect ratio, 720p handset resolution, phablets, 1080p handset resolution--could some form of dual screens be next? The Yota shows one possibility, another is the NEC Medias W.
  • Price is the bottom line

    According to http://bit.ly/Yotadual it will be priced at $600 which is not exactly cheap.