YotaPhone 2 is a hybrid Android/e-ink wonder


If the average Android phone made a baby with a Kindle, it would look like the YotaPhone 2. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — I’ve seen pictures of the bizarre YotaPhone, a premium Android/e-ink smartphone from Russia, but when I first held it at International CES this week, I realized it’s something you have to use to understand.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 With everyone but BlackBerry seemingly copying the iPhone’s design these days, the YotaPhone (now in its second generation) stands out as something strikingly unique. It features a 1,920 by 1,080-pixel, 5-inch LCD display on one side, and a responsive e-ink screen on the other.

It’s not something you’ll ever see out of a company like Apple, but you have to give the YotaPhone kudos for being an oddball.

The original YotaPhone raked in the awards at the CES trade show last year, and this year it’s back with a more refined and powerful hardware experience. Yota Devices listened to feedback from its customers (probably not that much of a pool to draw from, considering it won’t be sold in the states until later this year) when designing YotaPhone 2, a company rep explained. The form factor is slimmed down with rounded edges, and the e-ink display’s resolution has been improved from 640 by 360 to 960 by 540.

I’m told the phone is running “stock” KitKat, but there’s some proprietary software powering the e-ink display. Anything on the front LCD can ghost through to the back and be used via e-ink, which is a great way to save battery life but a bad experience for just about anything besides reading. All the hardware powering the phone is premium, including a quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 chip and 2GB of RAM.

At first I thought having two screens was just a gimmick. But after using it for a few minutes, I really like having the option of a battery-safe e-ink display that’s easy on the eyes.

You’ll pay a pretty penny for this thing though. It sells for 555 pounds unlocked in the U.K. right now, and Yota is in the process of making it available in other countries, including through the big U.S. carriers, throughout 2015.