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Yotaphone 2 review

Yotaphone 2 review

Yotaphone, the handset billed as the 'Russian iPhone', has arrived in the UK

The second-generation version of the handset stands out with its twin screens, one of which is a low powered electronic paper display (epd).

But with some tech-watchers already dismissing the dual-display as nothing more than a gimmick, does the Yotaphone 2 really have the potential to be a phone for everyone?

Read our full review to find out.

First impressions and design

yotamirror 1 yotaphone

Initially, the Yotaphone 2 just looks like a mid-range Android phone, minus any branding on the front to show who actually makes it.

It feels weighty when compared with other smartphones around today, with a somewhat clunky build that we're guessing is what enables the handset to accommodate all that it has on board.

Flipping the Yotaphone 2 over, you see its raison d'etre: the always-on, slightly curved, e-ink display.

Coming in at 4.7-inch and with 960 x 540 resolution, this Kindle-esque screen is fully touch responsive.

At the front, is a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen that means the Yotaphone 2 sits somewhere between a large smartphone and a tablet.

Both screens can be used exactly as you would with a standard Android phone, but it's when the rear display comes into play that things really get interesting..

Software

yotapanels

The back display can be used in three different ways: YotaMirror, YotaPanels and with YotaCover – all via on board software.

And it’s a mixture of the first two, which offered us 40 per cent battery life, even after 24 hours, as a regular smartphone.

Swiping up the front screen shows three options, while the far left icon brings up YotaMirror.

This ‘mirrors’ exactly what’s on the main display to the rear. Only in a grey-scale you associate with a Kindle device, but with a little more responsiveness and a slightly higher refresh rate.

Anything that can really be done on the front screen, can be done on the rear. That is with the AMOLED display powered down, reducing the overall battery usage.

Running apps on the back screen that do not need a lot of refreshing, such as Spotify and their ilk, makes a lot of sense. After all, why use the big battery pull of a 5-inch 1080p screen for functions that don't really need it?

After a period of time of non-use, YotaPanels come into effect. These are the outfit’s Android home screen equivalents, geared up to take advantage of the epd.

They house apps, access various shortcuts, along with showing the likes of notifications, text messages, emails and more.

Here, you can respond to all the above from these predefined screens, or you can customise your own.

Hiding all these updates is a lock screen, under the name of YotaCover, showing pictures from Facebook or an album, with pin protection for added security.

Features

yotamirror yotasnap

It goes without saying the secondary screen is the key feature here, thanks largely to its battery longevity-enhancing properties.

On a full charge you can expect 110 hours of use. Reading a book for three hours reduces the battery by only two per cent.

And there are even more ways to get more life out of the phone, with YotaEnergy.

Acting in much the same way as other phone’s stamina and ultra-power saving modes, this feature disables WIFI, Bluetooth and reduces the screen's brightness and cellular activity.

We still had a good 84 per cent of battery left after 24 hours, with around five days and nine hours remaining.

And that's despite the fact that we slightly cheated, by enabling mobile data, which we used to manually update the phone’s inbox throughout the day while making calls, sending texts and responding to emails.

The YotaEnergy mode, which makes the front screen inaccessible, activates by default when the battery is at 15 per cent. Amazingly, this should afford you eight and a half hours of use

But the second screen isn't just about battery life. And that's down to the YotaSnap function.

Remember ‘Swiping up shows three options’ from the earlier? Well, if you choose the option on te far right, the phone takes a screen shot and sends it straight to the rear.

It's ideal for holding a QR code of a boarding pass, or a static clip of Google maps. Adding to what we consider the Yotaphone 2's piece de resistance is that even with no battery left on the phone, the image remains.

Usability

yotacover

The epd has a great viewing range, with a decent 180 degrees and it’s very readable, even in direct sunlight.

The other screen is great too, with a good range of specs driving it. That includes the eight-megapixel camera, which, you guessed it, can be operated by the rear display.

Although, switching between the two screens was easy enough, there wasn’t always a good user experience in running the full version of Android on the epd.

Accessing the home screen after the YotaPanels kicks in wasn’t an easy task. Not least because we found we had to go back into the main screen and then reactivate YotaMirror.

However, running individual apps and switching between them was a much better experience and it’s here that the Yotaphone 2 really excels.

The full Google OS experience on the epd wasn’t a massive let down, only a small niggle. But it’s the apps that will be key, rather than accessing the whole OS.

Running Android KitKat with more or less a vanilla UI could ensure quick and easy upgrades.

However, with a good level of unique hardware that needs to be driven, that might not be the case. We shall see.

Verdict

yotaphone 2 back to back

The Yotaphone 2 is a good mid-range smartphone on the face of it, but it’s the 'other face' [clear your desk. Ed) that will be its selling point.

Thanks to the epd and its low power drawing properties, it could be the solution to smartphone battery life problems that we've all been waiting for.

For the hordes of people who take a phone and a Kindle with them when they leave the house, this could be the ideal gadget.

But with a price point that comes close to the iPhone 6, and without the brand loyalty Apple commands, it's likely that Yotaphone will struggle to hit huge sales numbers and will likely end up something of a cult concern.

Here’s hoping the contracts are attractive enough to entice potential buyers, otherwise it might end up another Amazon Fire phone: so much potential, and so little sales.

Key specs

  • Screen: 5–inch, 1920 x 1080 AMOLED
  • Dimensions: 144.9mm x 69.4mm x 8.95mm
  • Battery: 2500 mAh
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.2GHz
  • Camera: 8 megapixel (rear), 2MP (front)
  • Video: 1080p at 30fps
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, HSDPA, Wi–Fi

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