What is Yotaphone?
The idea behind Yotaphone is simple, yet powerful. Every day we use dozens of Apps on our phones. The reality is that only a handful of these Apps actually require a bright screen with millions of colors and a fast refresh rate. Most of the Apps could do away with a simple newspaper-like black and white screen. Yotaphone is a regular smartphone with an integrated e-ink screen that is designed to reduce power consumption by reducing the use of the main screen.
The first Yotaphone was a moderate success with 40 000 devices1 sold by May 2014. Yotaphone 2 was released in December 2014. The first generation of the device was largely targeted at the Russian market. It took a while for the idea to be implemented as R&D started in 2010 but the market did not see the actual phone released until 2013. The second generation of Yotaphone is expected to have a larger impact on a global scale and is already available for purchase in many countries.
Alternatives from the same price range
Let's examine the alternatives for the first generation of Yotaphone. I've selected two smart phones that fall under the same price category (700 - 799 USD) and were released around the same time as Yotaphone.
The original Yotaphone's hardware was mediocre to say the least. The CPU was slower and had only 2 cores compared to 4 and 8 in Xperia Z and Galaxy Note respectively. Yotaphone 1 had no NFC chip and both the talk and standby time was considerably less than the two competitors. In short, the second screen on its own was a poor incentive to buy the device. Let's see if Yotaphone 2 addressed this problem:
Yotaphone 2 got a substantial hardware upgrade with a better CPU and an NFC chip. The maximum standby time also increased by a third and the maximum talk time has almost doubled which is good news. The amount of RAM remained the same and the back camera surprisingly got a downgrade to 8 Mp. Yotaphone 2 is also more expensive and now falls under the 800-899 USD price range compared to 700-799 for the original Yotaphone.
Lets see how Yotaphone 2 compares against other phones in the same price range released within the same time period:
Even with the generally unimpressive hardware specs Yotaphone 2 is now capable of competing in its price segment. The bottom line is that its hardware will no longer obstruct its unique selling point - the e-ink second screen.
Where is Yotaphone used the most?
Yotaphone 2 is available in quite a few countries, it is yet too early to say how successful this device is, but it has certainly developed momentum with the press and was led as "Exciting, Interesting and Innovative" by Ewan Spence, a contributor at Forbes. Cnet also gave Yotaphone 2 a positive review.
How will it impact the future of mobile devices?
This phone is still the only one of its kind on the market and it is not entirely clear what the long-run effect will be. Yotaphone 2 is a proof of concept that an e-ink screen can very well be used in conjunction with the regular screen. Yotaphone failed to demonstrate any positive impact on the battery life from using the e-ink screen. The difference in standby time and talk time between Yotaphone 1 and 2 was mostly due to a better battery.
It will be interesting to see if the emerging companies like Micromax will be the first to implement this technology in their hardware or if the established companies like Samsung or Apple will seize this opportunity first. After all, the technology is also promising for the wide range of wearable gadgets where battery life is even more critical and using an e-ink screen on its own or in conjunction with a regular screen could boost the battery life.