YotaPhone 2: Are two displays better than one?

The YotaPhone 2 offers users both an LCD screen and an e-ink screen -- along with a hefty price.

yotaphone 2

I'm afraid that I've been ready to shrug and pronounce e-ink pretty well yesterday's news. While e-ink readers are still very much in evidence -- a half-hour's ride on the NYC subway will tell you that; there are usually at least a few people per car reading from one -- they have pretty much become what you use if you don't have a tablet.

And while e-ink looked for a while as though it might become the chosen technology for smartwatches, newer and upcoming products such as the Moto 360 and the Apple Watch have pretty much sunk that ship.

However, there is at least one product that may provide a justification for keeping e-ink displays popular among higher-priced tech products. The YotaPhone 2, which is currently shipping in Europe and the Middle East, is a truly different idea: A phone that has a LCD screen on one side and an E-Ink display on the other.

The idea is that, while the LCD can be used for -- well, for everything you currently use an LCD screen for -- the e-ink display will use so little power that it can be always on. As a result, you can check your email, check the time, check a map, and use much less battery power than you would otherwise. If you've just finished watching two movies and suddenly realize you have very little battery power left, you can use the e-ink display to hold you until you get to a power source.

And if you want to sit on the beach and read, you can use that e-ink display (which, unlike almost any LCD, can be seen comfortably in bright sunlight).

I have to say that, without having actually seen the product myself, it sounds like a very neat idea. It's even a nice design feature: If you're not using the e-ink display to actually show data, you can choose a piece of art or pattern to decorate the back of your phone (as long as it looks good in monochrome, of course).

The only problem is the cost. The phone is currently priced at £555 in the UK, which comes out to about $865 in the U.S. That's a lot of money for a single device; as Mikael Ricknäs points out in his article, "you could buy the G3, a Kindle Paperwhite and an extra battery pack, and still have £100 left over."

Still, I hope it comes to the U.S. soon. At the very least, I'd love to try out a two-sided phone.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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