Tonight I was at the YotaPhone 2 launch event at Shoreditch, London, and having managed to get a few minutes with this new Android smartphone, here are my first impressions.
During his speech, Yota Devices’ CEO, Vlad Martynov, was emphatic about how YotaPhone 2 is intended to transform the smartphone industry. And unlike other smartphone presentations I’ve watched, the emphasis wasn’t on hardware like camera specs and RAM (although he briefly mentioned the Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor) — the first time I heard about the YotaPhone 2’s specs was during the hands-on demonstration, where I was told the camera is a 8MP shooter.
On the surface, the YotaPhone 2 is a typical Android handset featuring a sharp, HD 1080p AMOLED display (which wasn’t quite as bright as I’d like); a light weight of just 145 grams; slim form factor of 144 mm x 69.5 mm x 8.9 mm; and a Gorilla Glass 3 finish on both sides. It has a soft texture around the sides and its curved shape makes it feel very nice in the hand.
But Martynov’s focus wasn’t on any of that. Instead, he wanted to talk about YotaPhone’s dual-display technology.
It’s when you turn the YotaPhone 2 around and see the rear, electronic paper “Always-On Display” that you get a glimpse of what it can really do. (If you own an e-Reader like a Kindle this display will look familiar to you.) The black & white Always-On Display’s primary benefit is extensive battery life — Yota claims up to five days of eBook reading from a single charge — but the perks stretch to functionality too. You can swipe across various screens just like a typical Android screen to access your phone dialer, text messages, emails, eReader and more — all while preserving your phone’s battery.
YotaPhone 2’s Always-On Display.
Here are some of the YotaPhone 2’s main features:
With YotaEnergy, the YotaPhone 2 switches all of your “key functions, including calls and texts” to the rear display Always-On Display. It does this automatically once battery life reaches 15%, and conveniently provides you with another 8.5 hours of use. Useful when you’re away from a power source.
YotaMirror allows you to mirror the app you’re using on the YotaPhone 2’s primary display onto the rear. Whether you want to read an eBook, send text messages, check your email or use Spotify, using Android apps in this mode has the benefit of prolonged battery life. And since the display has 180 degree viewing angles, working with full Android apps in direct sunlight won’t be a daunting experience either.
Let’s say you’re navigating a strange city and need to remember directions: YotaSnap lets you take a screenshot of crucial information (like a map for instance) from the colour display and keep it on your Yota Always-On Display for later viewing. (Apparently, you can even view this information when your battery dies. Now that’s handy.)
Finally, YotaCover adds a touch of personalisation to the YotaPhone 2. Vlad Martynov was particularly fond of this feature, and it essentially allows you to use your Yota Always-On Display to go through your personal photos, like a slideshow. I’m not entirely sure I’d want random photos from my gallery showing up on the display, but I guess some people might.
Pricing and availability
YotaPhone 2 will be available in the UK and Europe for £555 and €699, and YotaPhone store has opened in Shoreditch, London today. Availability for China and the Asian market will begin in Q1 2015, with USA, Canada and Latin America coming soon after.
YotaPhone 2 First Impressions
While I was very impressed with the dual-display technology and what can be done with it, I feel that Yota’s asking price of £555 is a little much. I have no doubts that certain people will absolutely love the convenience of prolonged battery life and the functionality that the Always-On Display has to offer — it’s unlike anything else I’ve seen for sure — but at that price point the YotaPhone 2 is up against some heavyweight competitors.
That said, the YotaPhone 2 has a different value proposition to its competitors and attracts a different kind of customer. Going for a premium price point is certainly a bold move, but I suppose I’ll have to reserve judgement on whether it’s worth it until I get an opportunity for a full review.
For now, I’ll say that I’m truly impressed by the technology they’ve packed into this phone and look forward to how end customers actually use it!
So over to you guys: would you pay £555/€699 for this smartphone? And if so, let me know your reasons in the comments section!
- A Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2 Ghz quad-core processor
- 2GB RAM
- 32GB eMMC
- 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash
- Front-facing 2MP camera.
- 4G/LTE, WiFi and NFC connectivity