x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Yota smartphone falls just a little short in E-reader stakes

The YotaPhone offers something both new and exciting: an E-ink screen on the back of the handset in addition to the traditional LCD display. But is it enough to attract the e-book reader?

The reverse side of a YotaPhone smartphone, which features an E-Ink screen. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg
The reverse side of a YotaPhone smartphone, which features an E-Ink screen. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

As smartphones become ever more advanced, manufacturers are struggling to come up with compelling new features for high-end models that will persuade us to shell out our cash.

Voice activation and fingerprint access are all very nice, but it’s debatable whether they have been real game changers, while gimmicks like being able to control a phone with eye movement have left customers cold.

Enter Yota, a largely unknown Russian smartphone manufacturer that offers something both new and exciting: an E-Ink screen on the back of the handset, alongside the traditional LCD display. This is potentially great news for those of us who love our Kindles, and would rather not carry around two devices.

It’s a great idea, but sadly the YotaPhone does not live up to its potential. Partly it’s the E-Ink screen itself, which, at 4.3 inches, is a tad small, isn’t backlit and is far less crisp than most modern E-readers.

While these are small niggles, the main complaint is that there’s not enough for the YotaPhone’s second display to justify its presence. Wallpapers, maps, calendars, messaging and social media updates can all be displayed on the E-ink display, but functionality is relatively basic.

Above all, the YotaPhone, as of yet, doesn’t offer a compelling e-book experience. The phone comes pre-installed with Bookmate, an app that offers only out- of-copyright titles such as Dracula and The Time Machine.

To read such books on the smartphone’s E-ink screen is to appreciate the point of such a display, which is far easier on the eye for long periods of reading than a traditional LCD screen. Such an experience makes the lack of more contemporary titles, due to a lack of support from Amazon and other e-book providers, all the more frustrating.

Ultimately the YotaPhone is a device that promises much, but sadly can’t deliver at this stage. If Yota can beef up the screen and sign some content deals in time for the release of the YotaPhone 2 towards the end of this year, it could have a winner on its hands. The YotaPhone is available for Dh2,199, at all Jumbo Electronics outlets in the UAE.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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