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Russian concept phone puts E Ink on the back

A new smartphone by Russian company Yota Devices intends to integrate an E Ink reader as a secondary display on the back of the phone.

A new smartphone by Russian company Yota Devices intends to integrate an E Ink reader as a secondary display on the back of the phone.

(Credit: Yota Devices)

Earlier this year, we saw the a concept smartphone by Onyx International, an Android device that eschewed the more popular OLED screen in favour of the rather lo-fi E Ink. Then came the PopSlate— a case for the iPhone 5 that put an E Ink screen on the back of the phone for things like notifications and personalisation.

Now comes one that almost beats both: the YotaPhone, an upcoming smartphone from Russian company Yota Devices, which has an LCD screen on the front — and a built-in E Ink display on the back.

The idea of a smartphone and an E Ink e-reader in one sounds good on paper, but, in reality, the company has not made much mention of this prospect, instead stating that the phone's secondary display would more likely be used for notifications, news feeds, social media and displaying pictures — much like the PopSlate — but in an Android phone, like Onyx's concept.

According to Yota, though, it has been working on the YotaPhone since 2010.

The front display is controlled via capacitive touchscreen, whereas the E Ink screen uses what the company is calling a "touch strip". The specs are:

  • Platform: Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM 8960 Dual Core 1.5 Ghz Krait

  • OS: Android, 4.2 Jelly Bean release

  • Dimensions: 67x131 mm

  • Weight: 140 grams

  • Rear display: E Ink, 4.3 inches

  • Front display: LCD, 4.3 inches, 1280x720p (HD)

  • Connectivity: long-term evolution (LTE bands 3, 7, 20 MIMO), 2G, 3G, 4G,Wi-Fi (direct), BT, near-field communication (NFC)

  • Memory: 32GB or 64GB flash, 2GB RAM

  • Battery: 2100mAh

  • Camera: 12MP main camera, HD front camera.

Not shabby; and there do seem to be a few cool features of the E Ink display that would definitely be useful, such as saving an image (like a map or a phone number) when your battery is running low, so that you can still access it when your phone is dead.

Nevertheless, we wouldn't be chucking out the e-reader just yet; maybe on a bigger, phablet-sized screen, the E Ink display would be decent for reading ebooks, but at the size it is and the speed of E Ink, we imagine the experience to be not quite up to par.

The YotaPhone is expected to hit the global market in the latter half of 2013, and should be on display at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February.