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The YotaPhone smartphone combines LCD and e-ink displays

by Mark Tyson on 10 January 2013, 11:31

Tags: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), PC

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabrhv

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Yesterday we looked at some CES smartphone launches and announcements from big players such as Sony, Huawei and Lenovo. All of those had some merit, showing off mostly incremental improvements and tweaks to existing designs. Today a new smartphone by Russian firm Yota Devices has caught my eye. The major USP on offer from the Android powered “YotaPhone” is that it has a screen on both sides.

This is the e-ink side of the phone

The YotaPhone’s main LCD screen is a 4.3-inch 720p display, flip the device over and there’s a 4.3-inch e-ink display! E-ink displays are renowned for their thrifty use of battery power, only requiring a little squirt of energy when the display updates/changes. Yota Devices thought this would be a good way to display useful reminders, graphics and notifications on a smartphone.

Time Magazine had a hands-on with this new smartphone and I’ve embedded their video below.

In summary the benefits of the second e-ink screen include the following:

  • Send a still of any screen to the e-ink display on the back by dragging the length of the display with two fingers (e.g. an aeroplane boarding pass)
  • A self updating clock and wallpaper can be shown on the e-ink display
  • Other notifications can be displayed on the always-on e-ink screen such as emails, texts and diary appointments appear as and when the reminder time comes up.

Surprisingly there was no mention of using the phone’s e-ink screen as an e-book reader; perhaps being able to turn the pages back and forth with the volume rocker.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the specs of the YotaPhone:

Display

4.3-inch 720p colour multi-touch LCS and 4.3-inch e-ink screen. Gorilla Glass on both sides

Processor

Dual-core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, paired with 2GB of RAM

Storage

32GB of storage

Camera

13 megapixels

System

Android 4.1

Dimensions

9.6mm at its thickest point

 

Yota Devices intends to launch the YotaPhone worldwide during the latter part of 2013.



HEXUS Forums :: 12 Comments

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“Yota Devices thought this would be a good way to display useful reminders, graphics and notifications on a smartphone.”

…on the back? Handy if you like to rest your phone on a table with the screen facing downwards though I suppose.

“Send a still of any screen to the e-ink display on the back by dragging the length of the display with two fingers (e.g. an aeroplane boarding pass)”

But if you've already got the image up on the main screen anyway to swipe it over to the back screen.. why not just turn your phone around to face them? It takes as little time and effort as swiping the screen to switch it to the rear one.

I just don't see the point of this tbh. Also a screen on each side makes cases/protective covers a pain.
BiblicalShower
…on the back? Handy if you like to rest your phone on a table with the screen facing downwards though I suppose.
Both my current phone and the previous one would automatically switch to mute if you placed them face down. So if the YP does this as well then perhaps the eInk screen would give you the ability to check emails/notifications without annoying anyone else and saving power (because the eInk display would take power only when you get a new item).
BiblicalShower
(“Send a still of any screen to the e-ink display on the back by dragging the length of the display with two fingers (e.g. an aeroplane boarding pass)”) But if you've already got the image up on the main screen anyway to swipe it over to the back screen.. why not just turn your phone around to face them? It takes as little time and effort as swiping the screen to switch it to the rear one.
This device was covered in this week's BBC Click, and the Yota rep pointed out that this would be ideal if you phone was running out of power. His example was if you had a Google Map image on the main screen you could send it to the eInk screen and still be able to use it when you ran out of power. Sure it's a niche use, but one I can see the point of.
Don't eInk screens tend to deal with bright sunlight better than LCD/OLED? In which case sending a map to that screen might make it easier to read?
BiblicalShower
I just don't see the point of this tbh. Also a screen on each side makes cases/protective covers a pain.
Can't see how the extra screen screws up cases, as all you need to do is mod your case design to include a perspex panel over the eInk screen. From what I've seen elsewhere that screen isn't touch sensitive, so all you need to be able to do is be able to see it. Sure the resulting case might be a bit flimsy, but it's certainly doable.

Getting back to the article, I'm in agreement that the obvious use for that second screen has to be for eBooks.
It's a very tough market for a new maker to break, and I applaud them for coming up with this - I like the idea and can see plenty of uses for that eInk display (having bought my wife a Kindle for her birthday last year, I can really appreciate the benefits of eInk, where I was quite skeptical before having seen it in the flesh!). Whether the rest of the phone does enough to keep up with the competition remains to be seen, and could be the biggest sticking point. For what will probably be a premium price, it really needs to be a premium product all round!
I read it as YodaPhone for some reason!! :p
CAT-THE-FIFTH
I read it as YodaPhone for some reason!! :p

I kept writing YodaPhone for some reason… :)