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Russian e-ink YotaPhone hopes it's second time lucky

The smartphone with a low-power screen on the back is back, but it ain't cheap.

The new YotaPhone 2 boasts a low-power screen on the back as well as the usual LCD touchscreen on the front. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The people who brought you the phone with a screen on the back are having another crack: the YotaPhone 2.

Russian broadband provider Yota makes a range of smartphones, but the YotaPhone series is distinguished by its rear e-ink screen. This spare display uses the same technology as the screen of a Kindle or other e-book reader, which display fewer colours than an electronic screen but uses vastly less power. That means you can read text or keep an eye on important information from your phone, such as the time or new messages, without draining the battery.

The first dual-screen YotaPhone was released in 2013. A novel idea, it was let down by poor quality and a lack of apps. Those issues have been addressed in the second generation, which we first saw in February at mobile trade show MWC with improvements to both the main and e-ink screen.

The e-ink screen is now a touchscreen, which is handy, and you can zap a screengrab from the main screen to the back where it will stay even if the battery dies -- perfect for keeping a map to hand, for instance.

The British price is a steep £550 unlocked (which converts to around $860 or AU$1,025) -- even more than a Samsung Galaxy S5 or LG G3. You can pre-order today direct from the company's website if you're in the UK or Europe. The phone is expected to be available in the US and Australia at some point, but as yet there's no word on when.

Now playing: Watch this: Up close with the e-ink second display of the YotaPhone...