Yesterday we brought you the announcement, and today we bring you the hands-on reality -- although bear in mind that this dual-screen YotaPhone is still very much a prototype. It certainly works -- pretty well, in fact -- but it's understandably rough around the edges and Yota Devices have plenty of work to do before the handset launches towards the end of next year. By way of a quick refresher: from the front this is a regular Android Jelly Bean phone with decent specs, including a 720 x 1,280 LCD display, dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 12-megapixel main camera. Turn it around, however, and you reveal its double identity: a 200 dpi E Ink display which can hold a range of information -- calendar appointments, ebooks, tweets and whatever else you'd like -- without draining the battery. The good new is that the YotaPhone actually makes an even better first impression than we'd hoped, while the bad news is merely what's to be expected given the early stage of development. Click past the break for our hands-on video and impressions and all will become clear.
YotaPhone prototype hands-on
For any skeptics out there, it's definitely encouraging that the people behind YotaPhone are old hands in this field. Vlad Martynov and Lau Geckler in the video have CVs that span companies like Microsoft and HP, and their Russian parent company Yota is a significant player in LTE hardware. Both guys are keenly aware of the areas where the prototype needs improvement, and insist that the LTE-packing YotaPhone will soon get a new case to house the double Gorilla Glass screens, an improved power button (which also doubles up as the SIM slot), and very likely a superior E Ink panel that will increase the resolution to 220 dpi and also improve the contrast.
The software is already smooth enough to show how the management of content across the screens will work. There are basically two ways of throwing things to the rear display: In a customized app (made either by Yota or by a third party using the open APK), you can tap a symbol in the top right corner and the app will send currently displayed items across to the back. Alternatively, anywhere in the OS you can perform a V-shaped gesture on the LCD display to bring up a replica of the current screen (even the home screen, if you wanted) in E Ink.
It's at this point that things get a little tricky, because the rear screen isn't entirely touch sensitive. Only the bottom part of the rear panel is capacitive, and currently not all apps will respond to gestures in that area. That means you wouldn't currently be able to flip the page in a Kindle book, for example, or a click on a tune in a Spotify playlist. But the Yota guys say they've had a lot of feedback on this and other points and are already working on solutions -- and we're totally ready to believe them.