Smartphone screens can be energy hogs, and they can be tough to see in direct sunlight. One solution would be to use an E Ink screen instead of a traditional LCD display — but while E Ink screens use far less power, they usually have slow screen refresh rates and don’t do a good job of displaying colors.

Yota Devices has split the difference with their first phone. There’s a 4.3 inch color LCD on one side and a 4.3 inch E Ink screen on the back. You can use the LCD touchscreen to interact with the Android phone just like you would any other modern smartphone. The E Ink screen can show notifications or function as an eReader screen — allowing you to get days of battery life instead of hours (assuming you never use the LCD screen to surf the web, watch video, play games, etc).

The Yotaphone’s been in development for a few years, and now it’s finally available for purchase in Russia and parts of Europe, where it sells for 499 Euros.

Yotaphone

That’s a reasonable price for an unlocked high-end smartphone these days, but if it weren’t for the dual displays, the Yotaphone would look more like a mid-range device. It has the kind of specs you would have expected from a top tier phone in 2012, but it’s launching at the end of 2013.

The Yotaphone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor and a 4.3 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel color LCD, for instance. It does have a few premium touches including 2GB of RAM, and a 13MP rear camera as well as support for 4G LTE as well as WiFi and GPS.

It also has a 1MP front-facing camera and a 1800mAh battery. But it’s the 640 a 360 pixel E Ink display on the back that really sets this phone apart — and for folks that spend a lot of time reading on their phones, that might be enough.

At this point you can’t quite use the E Ink screen like a normal eReader: It doesn’t support eBook apps. But you can view email messages, Twitter notifications, RSS feeds, and other data on the back. You can also set a custom wallpaper to give your phone a custom look and feel. Since E Ink displays only draw power when the page is refreshed, you won’t waste any extra power by giving the back of your phone a custom, grayscale skin.

Unfortunately there’s still no word on when you’ll be able to buy a Yotaphone in the US — but the market for unlocked phones isn’t as strong in the States as it is in other countries, and Yota is relatively new the smartphone space and might not have the clout to work with US wireless carriers to offer subsidized models yet.

The good news is that Engadget reports future versions of the phone could be cheaper if Yota sells enough to negotiate better prices for components such as the Qualcomm chips used in its handsets.

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4 replies on “Yotaphone’s dual-screen smartphone is now available (in Europe and Russia)”

  1. The e-ink screen isn’t a touch screen and can’t be used as the primary display, it has a little touch sensitive strip at the bottom so you can make left and right sliding gestures. To use the e-ink display either you use apps that have been specifically designed for that side of the phone, or you do a gesture on the LCD so say you didn’t have your favourite ebook reader available for the e-ink display, you’d have to fire up the LCD, use the app, get the page you want, push that to the e-ink and then turn off the LCD… If you’re aware of all that and still want it that’s fine, but personally, I was really excited for this device until I realised I couldn’t use the e-ink display as the phone’s primary display (falling back on the LCD for when I need colour).

    1. Thanks. I was hoping to use the e-ink screen for outdoor use and for situations where I’d like to keep the screen on (ie. clock, timer, stats while USB/WiFi tethering, etc.).

      I hope a fully functional dual e-ink and LCD screened phone comes out.

  2. Pass. The resolution on the e-ink side is too low, useful only for notifications and wallpaper.

    1. i’m passing because the specs are too low for the price their charging that plus the LCD you’d think for a phone that costs more than my computer they could at-least put in an IPS display.
      There is an E-Ink Boox phone coming soon but it is going to have to be very low-cost for it to be worth while.

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