E-readers like Amazon's Kindle can last for weeks on a charge, thanks to their power-efficient E Ink displays. Wouldn't it be nice if your business phone had that kind of longevity?
The YotaPhone 2 won't last for quite that long, but the smartphone's unique design does incorporate an E Ink display on its back to help you get through the end of the workday and beyond. That's right — it actually has two screens: a sharp AMOLED display on the front that's similar to what you'd expect on a typical Android phone, and a gray-scale E Ink screen on the back that lets you view email, messages, calendar appointments, alerts and more, without draining your battery.The E-ink display is integrated seamlessly into the phone’s curved backside.
The device has already been released in some markets in Europe and the Middle East, and YotaPhone plans to launch it in the United States this year. The exact pricing and release date haven't been announced, but some rumors suggest a spring release might be possible. We went hands-on with the device this month to see how it stacks up as a work phone.
On its face, the YotaPhone 2 looks like a reasonably attractive, if unremarkable mid- to high-tier Android smartphone. It does offer pretty good hardware, including a sharp 5-inch HD display that produces bright, colorful images. The device also includes a zippy Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM that offers good performance, though it can't quite compete with the processors in the latest flagship phones. It also includes 32GB of onboard storage.
Of course, the E Ink display on the rear of the phone is what makes it interesting. The black-and-white screen is incorporated seamlessly into the device's curved backside, with no bevels or protrusions. To use the secondary display, just hold the device facedown and press the power button; the phone automatically detects the orientation of the device to determine which display to unlock.
Of course, because the second screen is E Ink, it's able to display information even when it's not being used. Unlike a regular smartphone screen, which draws power every moment it's on, an E Ink display drains your phone's battery only when it refreshes itself.
I easily navigated around the touch-screen back panel, which includes a simple, customizable layout that's designed to give you quick access to essential apps, like your email and calendar. You can check for updates and even perform basic functions like composing an email or adding an event to your calendar. An app lets you swap out which panels you want to see on the E Ink screen.
There's also a function called YotaMirror that basically passes the front screen through to the back panel, letting you view your home screen and run any Android application when your battery is low. Of course, you'll lose a lot of detail by running full Android on the simple E Ink display. Videos won't look good, but basic apps work just fine. Touch controls are surprisingly responsive, though there is some annoying flickering when you scroll through text or menus.
YotaPhone is also packing in some extra battery features to help you squeeze more hours out of your device. That includes YotaEnergy, which automatically shuts off nonessential functions like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when your device is about to die. The company says you can get about 8 extra hours out of the last 15 percent of your battery lifeby using only the back panel in YotaEnergy mode.
The YotaPhone 2 is a unique smartphone that could really benefit business users who prioritize battery life. Plus, it offers good performance and a large, sharp front display that gives you plenty of room to work. Look for a full review on Business News Daily when the device hits the U.S. later this year.