The YotaPhone is an example of one of the things we like the most about Android -- crazy hardware implemented in new and interesting ways. Dual-screen smartphones are nothing new -- recall the ill-fated Kyocera Echo of old. But Yota Devices' YotaPhone is the first we can recall that packs both a traditional LCD front and e-ink back, and today we went hands-on with the phone at Mobile World Congress. Both sides are coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 2, though the back has more of a matte texture to it. This gives the YotaPhone a unique appearance, which is accentuated by its slightly curved back.
Powering the YotaPhone is a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU at 1.5GHz. Around the back is a 12MP camera, and the power button cleverly doubles as a SIM tray. On the software side, it's near-vanilla Jelly Bean running the show -- Yota's left the Android UI mostly intact. Both screens are 4.3 inches diagonally, and the LCD clocks in at 1280x720 pixels. As you'd expect from the vanilla Android UI running on an S4 chip, the UI is smooth and lag-free.
The phone's also lacking traditional Android buttons -- instead, button commands are activated based on gesture controls on a panel under the LCD. Swipe halfway from right to left to go back, all the way to go home, and long press the middle for the task-switcher. Similarly, you can copy images from the front screen to the rear by swiping from top to bottom with two fingers.
Certain apps, such as Calendar and Weather, can also run natively on the rear display, and there's an in-app button for transferring things to the rear screen. This means you're able to view content without burning through quite so much juice -- and it could also be useful for viewing certain types of information in bright sunlight.
The YotaPhone probably won't be a mass-market seller in the West, but it is an incredibly cool device nonetheless, playing to the strengths of both LCD and e-ink. We've got hands-on photos and a quick video demo after the break.