Review: Yota Phone 2

Review: Yota Phone 2

As the battle for the sharpest and brightest phone screen gets more intense, one Russian handset maker is asking: "Why make do with one screen when you can have two?"

The YotaPhone 2 has a full high-definition 5-inch display (right). Flip it over and you will find a 4.7-inch e-ink screen (far right), instead of the usual metal, glass or plastic rear panel that hides the battery.

So why two screens? The original YotaPhone I tested failed to answer the question convincingly. The e-ink screen did little more than display e-books and certain information.

With the YotaPhone 2, the e-ink display is bigger, at 960 x 540 pixels compared with 640 x 360 pixels of the original. It is also multi-touch capable.

In normal usage, the rear display can also be used for basic phone functions, such as making calls, checking e-mail and sending SMS messages, or for displaying important information from the main display like time, weather and notifications.

This gives it an edge over other smartphones. With the e-ink screen always on, you can glance at the screen to view notifications and not worry about battery drain.

A new YotaMirror feature can make the e-ink screen the primary screen, useful when you want to conserve battery.

This means you can use the e-ink screen to check social networks, view photos (in black and white) and send WhatsApp messages.

But while the convenience is there, an e-ink screen is not meant for watching videos, or for playing touchscreen games. The response rate on the YotaPhone 2 is slightly better than that of e-ink tablets, but it is nowhere as fast as regular touchscreen displays.

For instance, there were times when the screen would pause and turn white or black, before displaying the next page of a book or image in the gallery.

These are usual occurrences in e-book readers and one of the disadvantages of e-ink screens, even if they have become sharper and are more energy efficient.

Design-wise, the curved edges and black frame of this phone reminds me of the Google Nexus 5. The 8MP rear camera takes decent photos, even if the shutter speed is quite slow, compared with its Android competitors.

While both displays are protected by Gorilla Glass 3 shielding, placing the phone on the table now offers a minor conundrum: Which side do you want facing you?

The dual display is a rather niche offering, and the high price tag might stop interested parties from picking one up.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg

TECH SPECS

Price: $889 (before tax)

Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801

Operating system: Android 4.4 KitKat

Camera: (Rear) 8MP AF, LED Flash, (Front) 2.1MP

Screen: (Front) 5-inch Amoled Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 442 PPI, (Rear) 4.7-inch Electronic Paper Display 960 x 540

Memory: 32GB, 2GB RAM

Battery: 2,500 mAh

RATING

Features 4/5

Design 3/5

Battery life 4/5

Performance 3/5

Overall 4/5


This article was first published on March 25, 2015.
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