The YotaPhone can display a message on its rear E-ink screen when capturing an image on its 12MP camera.

Where was your smartphone designed? Cupertino, Korea or Japan? Maybe China? In most cases it won't be Russia. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting devices on display at the Mobile World Congress comes out of the land of the tsars. The YotaPhone has been floating around the web before but this show is the first time we've had a chance to look closely at the prototype device.

When holding the YotaPhone in your hand, with its slab design and 4.3-inch LCD screen, it pretty much looks like any other smartphone on display at the show. However, if you flip it around you'll see that there's an E-ink display, similar to the ones you'd find in an Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook ebook-reader, on its back.

The main purpose of this design is extending the battery life. E-ink displays consume significantly less power than LCD or TFT displays and do not require any energy at all if the image on the display doesn't change, allowing the display to remain on even when the battery is completely drained. On the YotaPhone this secondary sceen is used to display certain information that doesn't require a color screen. The idea is to reduce the use of the power-hungry main screen and therefore make the battery last longer.

 The YotaPhone comes with a 4.3-inch LCD on the front ...
 ... and a same-size E-ink secondary screen on the back.

The E-ink screen can be used in a variety of ways. It can display text messages or any other type of alert which means there is no need to press the power button to turn on the main screen and check what actually has happened when your phone beeps or vibrates. You can also use it to simply customize the appearance of your device by displaying a background image or message.

Another useful feature is the ability to 'copy' the contents of the front-screen onto the rear with a two-finger swipe. This way you can 'conserve' an image, for example a map with directions, on the rear screen just when the battery is about to die, and still have it available in an E-ink version when your device is completely drained. 

Last but not least you can of course also read your ebooks on the rear screen. Again, one of the advantages in this scenario is increased battery life but you also have better visibility in bright sunlight with E-ink technology. The E-ink screen does not offer any touch-sensitivity but the area underneath  works like a touchpad and allows you to navigate through documents by swiping. 

The YotaPhone is currently in prototype stage but the plan is to bring it to market in the second half of this year. There are no details on pricing yet but the company says the YotaPhone will be 'priced as a premium-phone.' Click through to the YotaPhone website for additional information.

Despite the secondary screen the dimensions and weight of the YotaPhone ...
 ... are similar to conventional one-screen devices.

YotaPhone headline specifications:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor
  • Android, 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch E-ink display
  • 4.3-inch touchscreen, 1280x720 pixels 
  • LTE
  • 32 or 64 GB storage
  • 2100 mAh battery