In a minute, we’ll get to the proper “review” portion of this product review, but before we do I should start out by telling you the YotaPhone 2 will finally make you cool. Yeah, 100% of the people I’ve flashed it at since we unboxed it – and I mean 100% – have gone wide-eyed and asked me what the heck it is, and how it works.
And it’s a cell phone.
That is no small feat! Because the last time I saw that happen was… well, I was going to say with the introduction of the Palm OS-based Treo back in like 2002. But even then the reactions were more of a, “oh that’s an interesting novelty that I would never use”, where the looks now are more of a, “shut up and take my money”.
YotaPhone 2 Background
One of the most amazing things about the YotaPhone is that it isn’t from Japan. Or Korea. Or America. It’s From Russia. With love!
The YotaPhone 2 is the latest revision of a device that began with a novel idea. Since people are basically addicted to checking messages and “reading” on their mobile phones, how about incorporating a second low-power e-Ink screen for exactly that purpose.
Traditionally, the screen on a mobile device uses the majority of the power for most people, but e-Ink screens only use power momentarily to change “pixels” from ON to OFF (or vice versa) and then they sit there. Displaying something, while consuming nothing.
Why did it take 20 years for this to be invented? I have no idea. Because the result of this implementation is surprising, innovative, and definitely much more than mere novelty.
YotaPhone 2 Unboxing
To get an idea of what I mean, take a look at our very first look at the YotaPhone 2, when Cali and I unboxed them.
We were initially excited just to see something new an innovative, but I will admit that I was not prepared to actually “like” it. I see enough new technology that it generally doesn’t really illicit an emotional reaction. Which is another one of those characteristics you can’t really express in a product “review”.
But I digress.
It’s Not a Touch Screen, it’s a Touch Phone!
If you think about how you use your mobile device, you generally pick it up, hold and interact with one side, put it down, and repeat. So lets say you get a call or a text, you pick up the phone to see who’s calling, you may answer it – or maybe not, then you set it down and wait to do that again.
But the YotaPhone 2 forces you to rethink that process. Because BOTH sides of the device are screens, so when a text arrives you don’t have to turn it over to see who it is or what they have to say. Just glance at the e-ink screen!
In fact, it’s the modification of your normal process that renders the huge benefits associated with having the extra second screen! By ignoring the energy-draining LED panel for mundane tasks like seeing who just texted, you increase battery life by an order of magnitude!
By that I mean, don’t ask how many hours my phone lasts between charges. Ask how many days.
Hardware and Specifications
- OS: Android (KitKat 4.4)
- Battery: Li-ion (2500 mAh)
- CPU: 2.3 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800
- RAM: 2 GB
- Internal: 32 GB
- External: N/A
- 8 MP Rear
- 2 MP Front
- Size: 5.67 x 2.74 x 0.35 in
- Weight: 4.9 oz
- Resolution 1920 x 1080
- Type: AMOLED
- Density: 440 ppi
- Size: 4.7 inches
- Resolution: 960 x 540
- Type: E Ink
- Integrated Wireless Charging (Xi)
As with any device, the YotaPhone 2 is going to be the right tool for some people, and not so great for others. But there are certain characteristics that I believe will be fairly universally accepted, so here’s how I see it.
YotaPhone 2 Pros
The first thing that struck me about the YotaPhone 2, besides the fact that there was a SCREEN ON THE BACK, was the way the phone physically feels. The front screen, feels like any other – but the back, the e-ink side, feels soft and smooth. And as a guy, that’s not something I would really have ever thought I’d care about. But when its in your hand, and it feels buttery smooth… and well, that’s nice.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of owning a phone with built-in wireless Qi charging, you haven’t lived! I first experienced wireless charging with the Samsung Galaxy Note a few generations back, and haven’t been able to even consider a phone that requires corded charging since then. I don’t know about you, but my phone is the center of my universe. Its how people communicate with me, but it even serves as my alarm clock in the morning and is the last thing I put down at night. Being able to set it on a charging base instead of fumbling for a cable in the dark is liberating. And having that feature be built into the YotaPhone 2, and not a $50 add on optional back, is wonderful.
If you DON’T have a Qi charging base, the micro-USB port is located right on the center, bottom of the phone which makes it convenient for placement on micro-USB compatible charging bases, alarm clocks, and portable audio systems.
The down firing stereo speakers have plenty of volume to fill a room with sound if you’re listening to your music collection, streaming media, or even trying to share a YouTube video with friends while driving down the road. Another EXCELLENT benefit of the location of the speakers – when paired with my favorite desktop charger, the Tylt Vu, it angles the sound forward directly into the listening area. Bonus!
The 440 pixel per inch LED screen is VERY crisp and sharp. So although we keep talking about the secondary screen, the primary screen’s 1080p display is quite pleasing and works well in a wide range of lighting conditions. Like most screens it can get overpowered in direct full sunlight, but short of that its quite enjoyable. And unlike ANY other phone, if you are out in direct sunlight – just turn the phone over and use the e-Ink screen which will work even with a spotlight pointed directly at it! Oh, and did I mention that the phone is covered in Gorilla Glass 3! Which means its a tough little device!
The quad-core processor, combined with 2GB of RAM does an excellent job of running the Android operating system efficiently and with very little lag. It runs as well as any other phone I’ve encountered.
The 9mm thin case is impressive, because its barely thicker than the thinnest phones on the market, yet this one has two screens! Each of which requires it’s own electronics, power and cooling! Plus, the integrated Qi charging requires additional room. I honestly don’t know where they put all the stuff inside to keep it so thin! It’s Russian ingenuity at its finest!
YotaPhone 2 Cons
Having screens on both the front and back is nice. But given that this is an expensive piece of hardware you’re going to want to protect it. I have yet to see any YotaPhone 2 cases, not that this is surprising considering the phone isn’t even available in the US, but we will have to wait and see how the cases affect the look and feel of the phone. Also, they need to not interrupt the ability to wireless charge!
The 8MP camera is a bit on the weak side. It does an acceptable job, but it’s not the equal of the iPhone or a new Samsung such as the S5 or Note 4. To be clear, its not the megapixel count. It’s the quality of the photos. I’d say the YotaPhone 2 camera is above average, but pros like myself are not going to leave the camera at home.
Having said that, here are samples of the EXACT same scene taken on a mini set with identical lighting between the Samsung Note 4 and the YotaPhone 2. The funny thing is, that even within my own household different people prefer each photo. So, really is this a Con?
Select either file to view the full uncompressed version. (Warning, large!)
I can’t wait to see more apps added to the e-ink screen for additional customization. For example, Evernote, or Pandora. I’m sure additional apps will be coming as developers get access to the SDK and start pumping them out.
YotaPhone 2 Summary
There is one major problem with the testing I’ve been able to do with the YotaPhone 2 thusfar. It is not yet available to use as an actual phone in the US, and thus I haven’t been able to convert to using it as my 100% daily use phone. I’ll have to wait to give that a try when a Verizon capable version comes out.
However, I’ve been able to use it on WiFi for every other function that I require, which is about 95% of my phone usage anyway. The size, shape, speed, wireless charging, sound quality, screen quality and other basics add up to making it just a generally pleasing device that I think anyone would enjoy.
But that sexy, sexy second screen. The ability to treat your phone as a true e-reader, to extend the battery life out to several days, to see your notifications, clock, weather, updates and more without paying the battery life penalty – well, that my friends earns a Geek Beat Editor’s Choice Award.
And a toast. 😉 Давайте выпьем за успех нашего дела!