Remember the YotaPhone? The delightfully kooky Russian smartphone that pairs a bog-standard LCD screen with an eInk display on its rump? It’s been teased for a launch for months now, but the company behind it has just spilled the beans at a press event in Moscow: the YotaPhone will launch in Russian and Europe today complete with a confirmed €499/19,990 RUB price tag, right in line with rumors that flew around earlier this year.
Smartphone aficionados in Russia, Austria, France, Spain and Germany who are itching for a device that’s a bit off the beaten path can lay claim to their YotaPhones now, and Yota Devices is pushing to sell the devices in a total of 20 markets in Europe and the Middle East by the time Q1 2014 rolls around.
Bummer alert: the Americas didn’t make the cut for that first round of rollouts, and there’s no official word on when (if ever) that split-personality smartphone will ever find its way state-side.
Bear in mind that Yota Devices has been plugging away on the YotaPhone concept for over a year now, so the components ticking away inside of the thing aren’t exactly the newest you’ll ever come across. There’s a 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip in there (though the company hasn’t specified exactly which variant), along with 2GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch 720p front display, and a surprisingly small 1800mAh battery to keep things humming away. If you were to just read those specs off a sheet of paper, it would sound like you were describing a flagship smartphone from (surprise surprise) last year, though as a whole the device still has enough oomph to keep up with users’ daily grinds.
But really, I don’t know anyone who’s been eyeing up the YotaPhone based on the strength of its spec sheet; the real star of the show though is the 4.3-inch eInk display mounted on the YotaPhone’s rear end in lieu of a more traditional backplate. Getting content onto the second screen seems simple enough — a two-finger swipe down on the front screen sends a screenshot of whatever you’re looking at to the paper-like rear display — but only a handful of apps are really optimized for the task from the get-go. That early list includes an organizer, a social feed/RSS reader, and a language learning tool to name a new, and we’re getting word that Yota Devices is going to open up the necessary APIs to curious devs in short order.
These days nearly every OEM is clamoring to deliver the sleekest, fastest, highest-def smartphones possible, and it’s sort of refreshing to see a company stop for a moment to ponder a smarter way to add value to the smartphone formula. Naturally, that’s not to say the YotaPhone is poised to be an overnight success. The limited scope of its launch means that the company behind the phone is missing out on traction in the crucial Asian and American markets, and it’s hard to deny the incredibly niche vibe this thing gives off. As much as I like it, the YotaPhone formula almost assuredly won’t click with a majority of potential smartphone shoppers, and there’s no way Yota Devices doesn’t realize that. If nothing else though, the path the company has chosen is an interesting one, and in a sea of smartphone sameness you can’t completely discount the value of a wild-eyed notion.
Want a little more? Check out the live stream of the event (courtesy of CNET) below: