YotaPhone, the phone with two fronts. With a screen on both sides, the YotaPhone 2 has to be one of the most unique smartphones we’ve seen this year. Unlike many other manufacturers, it decided to add a feature you won’t see anywhere else instead of just having having a big-number-filled spec-sheet. But is this feature any good? We’ll find out in our review.
The YotaPhone is more than just a device with an unusual feature. It’s also one of the most ergonomic phones I’ve used. This is mostly thanks to the nicely curved back which has a really nice, soft matte finish. But perhaps more important is the size of the phone. It’s only 69.4mm wide. That’s 3mm narrower than a Moto X and despite being 2mm wider than an iPhone 6, it still manages to feel small in hand thanks to those aforementioned curves.
Despite being made of plastic, the phone does feel solidly made. That’s not to say it feels like a premium handset. It doesn’t. But I really like its understated finish and lack of lavish extravagances. I particularly like the rounded edges on the top and bottom, which give it a more pebble-shaped look rather than the usual rectangle with rounded corners.
I also really like the effort made to hide everything. All the ports and hardware are subtly designed, so as not to show off in any way. The earpiece on the front is a small cutout groove in the glass. The camera and LED on the back are just two basic circles. The gray plastic frame is barely interrupted by the headset jack, micro USB or power or volume button (which - incidentally - doubles as the SIM tray).
If there’s one weakness, it’s a pet peeve of mine: Poor buttons. I like to feel a solid click, a well made-switch when I’m pressing a button. The YotaPhone doesn’t have that. There’s so little travel and so little tactile feedback, that I sometimes had to press the power and volume buttons twice to be sure it registered.
Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front side should ensure the display remains free from - at least - minor scratching.
With most phones, there’s only one display to consider. With the YotaPhone 2, there are two.
The main display is a 5-inch, fullHD AMOLED panel which really pops and is surprisingly good. It might not be the brightest display on the market, but I love the way the content seems to float on the surface. Colors are vivid, and although the overall tone is a little warm, the whites don’t change color depending on viewing angle. This makes browsing the web as pleasing an experience as watching a movie or gaming.
As for the secondary display, that’s a different story all together. For reading e-books, that can surely be no better experience than an E-Paper display. Although the 4.7-inch panel is plenty big enough, at 235 ppi, it’s not the sharpest screen around. And the refresh rate is so slow that it’s not the best for any apps or content that’s animated. It can also be a challenge to know if your gesture has been recognized by the touch sensors since feedback isn’t immediate. But the screen can be super-useful.
The YotaHub app lets you customize what appears on your secondary screen. That can be widgets for displaying weather, calendar or a clock. Or you can have shortcuts to your favorite contacts or apps that you can activate without using the main display. Conserving battery juice. If you want to, you can use the 16 shades of gray to show off a grayscale wallpaper. But the best thing about it is that if the content isn’t changing or moving, it doesn’t use any power. This makes it incredibly economical. And it’s much easier to see in daylight than every color screen around. It’s also really useful if you want to take selfies using the main camera.
YotaPhone’s 8MP camera is a very setup. It has auto-focus and flash, and can record in 1080p video. All in all, it’s an average experience. Colors and detail are underwhelming, and noise creeps in when light levels drop. And macro shots definitely aren’t its forte. Focussing on close up objects proves a struggle most of the time.
That said, I’ve used worse cameras than the one in YotaPhone’s latest creation. It’s when you consider this phone’s higher-end price point that you start wondering whether something like a Galaxy S5, iPhone 6 or Xperia Z3 might be a better option.
Performance and Battery
YotaPhone 2 plays host to a quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon processor, and runs stock Android with a couple of added YotaPhone apps and settings. Performance, therefore is smooth and reliable. Switching between apps is easy and fast, loading games is as easy as it would be on most modern flagships.
Although it handles most tasks with ease, nothing about the performance wowed me. Not once did I sit back, impressed at its speed. It won’t let you down, but it won’t excite you either. At least, not until we start talking battery life.
Thanks to some built-in battery saving options, and the ability to just use the low-energy E-Paper display on the back (if you want to), you can get days out of a single charge. Perhaps even up to a week if you use the E-Paper display exclusively. Use it like a regular smartphone however, and you’ll get about the same use as most other smartphones.
The 2,500mAh battery should get you through a day on a full charge. But even if it doesn’t, you can fall back on the Quick Charge technology to give your phone a boost during the day.
As an overall package, excluding the secondary screen, the YotaPhone is a good smartphone. In fact, I’d have no issue using it as my daily driver. But, if you’re an avid e-book reader and don’t want to take your Kindle with you everywhere you go, the E-Paper display on the back might just be the best thing that ever happened to a smartphone.
With a retail cost of £555 UK pounds (or $850), it’s definitely at the high end of the market. And I find it hard to recommend over any other similarly-priced, or even lower priced, smartphones. Unless you happen to be that one E-Paper nut who loves reading. All the time.