The makers of the YotaPhone 2 raised nearly $300 thousand through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to bring their dual-screen smartphone to the United States. But now it looks like the company is cancelling that effort.
A number of backers of the campaign have reported that Yota Devices has sent out email messages letting them know that the US launch has been canceled due to manufacturing issues.
Yota Devices says backers of the campaign will be able to either request a refund or receive an international version of the phone instead of a US-specific model… although the logistics for refunds are still being worked out. The international version will work with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, but users will only get HSPA+ speeds rather than support for faster 4G LTE networks.
The Yotaphone 2 is an unusual phone with a 5 inch AMOLED full HD color display on one side and a 4.7 inch, 960 x 540 pixel grayscale E Ink display on the other. The phone runs Google Android software and can either mirror the color display to the digital paper screen so that you can run full Android apps on an E Ink display, or push content from specific apps to show weather, time, pictures, eBooks, or other content on the E Ink screen.
The idea is that you have one screen that gives you a normal Android smartphone experience, and a second screen that’s easier to read in direct sunlight and which uses less power, allowing you to extend the phone’s battery life.
Yota provided me with a demo of the phone at CES in January, and while it’s not necessarily the best option for everyone, I could see how the dual-display feature could come in handy. The phone’s other specs aren’t bad by 2014 standards. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 2,500 mAh battery, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC.
Unfortunately it looks like the company was overly ambitious about its ability to create a version specifically for the US market. This exposes one of the problems with crowdfunding: it’s easy to think of a pledge to back a campaign as a “pre-order” for a product, when in fact that you’re doing is helping to fund its creation in exchange for the promise of rewards (including the product itself).
Heck, the Yotaphone website even has a “preorder” button that leads to the Indiegogo campaign (which is now closed). But it’s hard to pre-order something that may never actually exist.
Meanwhile, Yotaphone may not be the only game in town for long. A handful of other companies including Oukitel and Umi have started working on their own dual-screen phones with color and E Ink displays.
Update: The Verge has posted the full letter Yota Devices sent to backers of its campaign. Yota says it’s working with a new manufacturing partner that will help the company deliver its next-generation phone to markets around the globe in 2016.
The next-gen YotaPhone is expected to feature more modern hardware and a lower price tag. And it should be available in North America as well as other markets.