CNET First Look
The YotaPhone: An Android smartphone with an e-ink second displayThe YotaPhone is an Android smartphone with an e-ink second display slapped on its back. Check out our video review to see what this bizarre concept is about.
Do you like the idea of having your phone constantly display notifications but don't want your battery life to drain away in hours? If so, the YotaPhone might be up your street. It's an Android smartphone with a regular 4.3-inch LCD on one side, and an E Ink second display on the other. Having two screens might seem like a bizarre concept. But it's not actually a bad idea. E Ink displays on backlit-like LCDs and don't constantly refresh, so they use only a tiny amount of power. Instead of having your battery-destroying LCD screen always showing notifications, you can instead see them appear on the rear E Ink display, which remains always on. The second screen is just not for notifications, either. You can view your Twitter and Facebook feeds, use it to display photos to personalize your phone, and use it as an eBook reader as you would with an Amazon Kindle. Certainly an interesting idea, but the YotaPhone is far from perfect. For one, the E Ink display is pretty poor-quality, making small text look fuzzy, and it has a nasty habit of showing a faint ghost of the previous image every time it refreshes. Crucially, though, there's very little software that's designed to work with the second screen. YotaPhone has access to its own eBook store, but it's well fully under start, and more popular services like Kindle or Kobo won't work properly on the E Ink screen. Your Facebook and Twitter feeds can be shown by YotaPhone's internet hub application. It shows a very basic feed, which you need to load up on the main screen before flipping around to the back, which is a rather clunky process. I also found the feeds wouldn't automatically update with new posts. There's a notes app that will show up on the back, which I found quite handy for keeping shopping list permanently on screen while strolling the food aisles. The rest of the phone isn't going to excite the serious tech fans among you. Its screen has an acceptable 1280x720 pixel resolution, has an underwhelming 1.7 gigaHertz dual core processor under the hood, and it's all wrapped up in a rather chunky, plain-looking body. There are no physical navigation keys on the front. Instead, you make your way around by performing a series of gestures on a touch panel beneath the screen. It's not an ideal solution as you, of course, need to actually remember what each gesture does. I also find the panel to be a bit unresponsive, forcing me to repeat the gesture more carefully on numerous occasions. On the back of the phone is a 30-megapixel camera. The YotaPhone's rear E Ink screen provides a handy way of being able to always see notifications or read eBooks without destroying your battery life. As a concept, I'm definitely sold. But the poor quality of the display, the lack of third-party support for second screen apps, and the underwhelming specs all around means this attempt just isn't up to scratch. If YotaPhone can use a better quality E Ink display and work much more closely with developers, this next-generation device might well be worth checking out. I'm Andrew Hoyle for CNET, and this is the YotaPhone.