YotaPhone has a 4.3-inch LCD and a same-size e-ink display, which acts as a handy, always-on second screen, on its back.
YotaPhone, a brand-new concept in smartphone design, in now available in Russia, Austria, France, Spain and Germany, with new markets in Europe and the Middle East coming by year's end, Yota Designs announced Dec. 4.
The Russian designer of Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment gave the phone a splashy introduction in Moscow, though it was hardly the phone's big debut. In July, YotaPhone received an Innovation Lion award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The YotaPhone runs Android Jelly Bean (4.2.2) and has two displays: a 4.3-inch (720 by 1280) capacitive-touch LCD (the first with Corning Gorilla Glass 3) on the front and a 4.3-inch (260 by 640) capacitive-touch e-ink display (think Amazon's Kindle) on the back.
The e-ink display not only offers an essentially built-in, glare-free e-reader, but an always-on experience made possible by the low power demands of the e-ink display.
The phone was designed to solve users' frustration with their smartphones' "'always-dark' screen," Yota said in a Dec. 4. statement.
"By including a second screen that uses electronic paper display technology, users have access to the information they want and need on a continual basis without having to wake up their phone," it continued.
In reading mode, the YotaPhone offers seven to 10 times the battery life of other phones, according to the company.
"The typical user picks up and activates their smartphone more than 150 times a day," Yota CEO Vlad Martynov said in a statement. "Why? Because users worry that messages or information they need or want are hidden behind their phones' black screen."
Users can save images or handy information—directions to where they're going, the contact information for the friend they're meeting, a boarding pass—to the back display, giving it the convenient appeal of a modern Post-It note.
Yota says it worked with manufacturer Hi-P, in Singapore, to develop a special chassis to house the YotaPhone's six antennas on the outer rim of the device.
It also worked with Bookmate to improve the book-reading experience on the phone; ABBYY to adapt Lingvo, its multilingual dictionary; Vedomosti to deliver newspaper content; and MapsWithMe to develop "dynamic maps." All come preloaded on the phone.
Users can push content, including the above-mentioned apps, from the front screen to the back by "tapping and swiping a panel under the e-ink display," writes Telegraph
reporter Sophie Curtis, who had some hands-on time with the phone.
"This takes some getting used to, as the gesture control is less than perfect," Curtis wrote, "but users are likely to appreciate the ability to interact with their second screen, rather than just use it to view static images."
The YotaPhone measures 5.3 by 2.6 by 0.39 inches, runs a dual-core 1.7GHz Krait processor, includes LTE connectivity, has a 13-megapixel main camera and a 1-megapixel front camera, 2GB of RAM, and comes in white or black.
The company hasn't yet said when the YotaPhone will make it to the United States.
"YotaPhone isn't just a new phone, it's a new way for people to communicate and use information," said Martynov. "Communication is more emotional and real with YotaPhone."
Apple, according to a March patent application
it filed, is experimenting with flexible displays that make use of the unused real estate that is the back of the iPhone.
"There exists a need for an improved form factor for portable electronic devices," Apple said in its patent application, "[that] allows functionality to extend to more than one surface of the device."
Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.