News Column

YotaPhone is a brave attempt but fails to impress

July 10, 2014

Naushad K Cherrayil Staff Reporter


The Russian start-up Yota Devices' new smartphone - YotaPhone - is an Android smartphone but with a difference.

The device has two screens - one LCD screen in the front and an always-on e-ink display, similar to Amazon Kindle, at the back.

The 4.3-inch device is powered by dual core 1.7GHz processor with 720p high-definition screen, 2GB of RAM and 32GB internal memory. There is no slot for microSD.

The 4.3-inch back screen has a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels compared to Kindle Paperwhite's 1024 x 768 resolution. It weighs 146 grams. It runs on the very old stock Android 4.2.2. Jelly Bean operating system.

The resolution of the back screen is not adapt for good reading as the fonts look grey and faded, so reading in the dark is a problem. But in outdoors, it is clear to read even under the sun.

The back screen cannot be used for writing or typing but only for displaying notifications.

The good thing is that there is no physical or capacitive buttons on the screen. The bad thing is that is 100 per cent gesture controlled. By swiping to the left will let you back go one screen backwards and one more will take you to the homescreen. Swiping from left to right will take you to the homescreen. Double tapping in the middle of the screen brings up multitasking. Swiping two fingers from the top of the screen sends a screen shot to the back of the device. Swipe right or left from the screen will skip through pages of an eBook. But finding the dedicated spot for gesture controls is sometimes difficult and can be missed.

Getting used to the gesture-controlled phone will take some time.

Only nine apps are optimised to work with e-ink display. They are easy to find as they are black in colour.

The dedicated e-reader app - Bookmate - is a cloud-based subscription service which contains free books and can be downloaded. By clicking on an icon on the top right-hand corner will send the e-book to the back of the screen for reading. Reading on the small screen is also a pain.

The Internet Hub app has all the social network feeds for the back. It can be read without powering the phone but cannot be opened by clicking them. It is good due to the always-on feature.

The pre-installed mapping app - MapsWithMe - offers country-specific map downloads.

With so little apps, Yota needs to find third-party developers to create apps for the e-ink display. The idea is good to have a second screen which is live always.

The positioning of the rear camera is unique and sits at the right hand corner on the back. The 13MP led-flash rear camera captures decent images with accurate colours and details in decent light. Turning the HDR mode on improves the colour accuracy but looks a bit overprocessed.

In low-light conditions, even with the flash on, the colours look washed out but detailed.

Video recording is okay but not good when compared to the phones with the same camera specs.

The 1MP front camera is good only for video chatting.

The 1,800mAh battery is below average even though the e-ink display is to take some strain off from the LCD display. In the video test, it lasted for around six hours. One good thing is that it can be fully charged in two hours. For heavy users, it is difficult to last close to one full day. The e-ink display remains in place even after the battery lost its full juice. Just using the e-ink display, the device lasted close to 46 hours. It is priced at Dh2,199.

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Source: Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)

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