YotaPhone 2 excites with costly dual-screen setup

The price tag is its Achilles heel

The YotaPhone 2 can be used as an e-reader for up to five days.

The YotaPhone 2 can be used as an e-reader for up to five days.

The dual-screen YotaPhone 2 is a much-improved version of its predecessor, and the electronic paper display is far from a gimmick. But the high price tag makes actually buying one a little nutty.

Let's get something out of the way first before we get back to the price: I can't help but be impressed by Yota Devices, because the company has done something truly different in a smartphone market that has become too homogenous. I also think the combination of a regular smartphone screen and a paper display on the back is a great idea.

When reading emails, news, Twitter messages and Facebook posts you don't really need 16 million colors, making the paper display useful for more than just reading books, which it's of course also good for.

The innards and the front of the YotaPhone 2 have the specs of a high-end smartphone from last year, with a 5-inch full HD screen and a Snapdragon 800 processor. The plastic design, which was chosen to keep the weight down, also feels aged. That's nothing to be ashamed of, but it means the smartphone can't keep up with more recent flagship models.

But in the end, it's the back that matters most on the YotaPhone 2. The touch-enabled 4.7-inch paper display has a 960 by 540 pixel resolution. The quality is impressive, especially when using applications that have been developed for the YotaPhone. When mirroring a regular Android app from the front screen, the quality drops, but is still serviceable.

The big advantage with the paper display is the increased battery life -- up to five days when using it as an e-reader and up to two days when using the paper display as a smartphone, Yota promises. The problem for the company is that features for extending battery life have become much more common, which makes it less of a differentiator compared to a year ago.

The new YotaPhone is also launching at a time when smartphone buyers have more great devices to choose from than ever before.

There are affordable devices like Motorola's Moto G. There are also a whole slew of high-end smartphones that were launched during the first half of the year and have become much cheaper, including the G3 from LG Electronics. Last but not least, users have new products such as Apple's iPhone 6s, the Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung and Google's Nexus 6 (if you are lucky enough to get a hold of one) to choose between.

For example, instead of spending £555, including tax, (US$870) to buy a YotaPhone in the U.K., you could buy the G3, a Kindle Paperwhite and an extra battery pack, and still have £100 left over. I would much rather go for that, but I hope there are enough people that will go for the YotaPhone 2, because the world is just a bit more fun with companies like Yota in it.

The smartphone has started shipping in Europe and the Middle East. It will also be available in Hong Kong by the end of the month and Taiwan as well as China in the first quarter of next year. It will go on sale in the U.S., Canada and Latin America soon after that.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Tags consumer electronicsAndroidsmartphonese-readersYota Devices

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Mikael Ricknäs

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