Take a look at the back of your smartphone. What do you see? Probably a nice textured surface with a camera and logo. Most likely it's well designed and even might feel good in your hand. However, that's such wasted space. Imagine, if you would, that back side of your device being put to good use.
Say, an E ink screen.
That's right—a standard screen on the front and an E ink screen on the back. Two for the (albeit high) price of one.
The original Yota Phone was released last year and saw very little movement. There was a reason for that—the usage of the rear screen was very limited. That has changed with the second iteration of the device. Now, the Yota Phone 2 is looking more and more like something that could gain some traction:
With the latest version, both screens enjoy tremendous improvements and the software stack now enables the user to "push" a full Android experience onto the E ink display. Of course, no one would really want to use the full platform on the rear display. What this does say, however, is that Yota has finally managed to make full use of the E ink display. Add to that, so many cool features you won't find in any other device. One feature is Yota Snap. Say, for example, you're racing to catch a plane. You have your boarding pass displayed on your device and you're battery is about to die. Flip the Yota Phone 2 over so it's displaying the pass, enable Yota Snap and it will freeze and display that image (on the E ink display only), even when the battery dies.
But beyond something like Yota Snap, why would anyone need an E ink display on the back of their smartphone? The answer to that question is quite simple. Reading. It's been proved, time and again, that E ink displays are superior for reading text—especially a lot of text. If you're a book reader (and why wouldn't you be?), E ink is not only easier on the eyes, it's is not prone to glare like a standard screen. This means you can step outside, flip your device over, and continue reading without struggling to view the contents of the book, website, or email.
And let's not forget battery life. Anyone that has used an E ink device knows that battery life is incredible. Prior to finally migrating to a Kindle Fire, I used a third-gen Kindle and was able to squeeze months from a single battery charge. With the Yota Phone 2, battery life becomes very interesting. Imagine you're on a business trip, you're in the middle of something crucial and you see your battery life down to minutes. Flip the phone over to the E ink display and you've just upped that battery life by hours.
Given the high cost of this new device (roughly $860.00 USD), users won't be clamoring en masse to get their hands on a Yota Phone 2. Even so, what this device does is highlight the fact that mobility can be so much more than what it is. Within the mobile world, this is innovation at its finest and more manufacturers would be remiss if they didn't take a cue from Yota and press against the current boundaries preventing smartphone technology from reaching beyond. If we remove the Yota Phone from the picture, at the moment, the epitome of smartphone innovation lies in Samsung's court—with the Galaxy S6 Edge. Yes, the S6 Edge curvy screen is sexy...but it doesn't add all that much, feature-wise, to the device. It's more form than function. The Yota Phone, on the other hand, blends form and function to perfection.
It is this kind of innovation the mobile world needs more of—from Google, Apple, Samsung, HTC, Lenovo, Motorola. Every device manufacturer, within the mobility landscape, needs to take a page from Yota's innovation script and start thinking beyond size, shape, buttons, 4K displays, and bloatware (which the Yota Phone has very little of).
Yota is doing something very, very right with their Yota Phone 2. Hopefully more manufacturers will follow suit and bring to the table this level of creativity in their designs.
What do you think? Does the "cutting edge" now belong to Yota? And could the E ink display hold any sway over your wallet?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.