Yota Devices is making the mobile world look twice at the smartphone concept. The Moscow-based start up, which was spun off from the Russian mobile broadband provider Yota in 2011, recently launched a smartphone with an LED screen on one side and an e-ink screen, similar to many e-readers, on the other.
While this innovative feature has already helped win awards for the phone’s prototype, YotaPhone’s other specs are somewhat underwhelming: a 4.3” LED screen with a 720 pixel resolution and a same sized e-ink screen that is only 360 x 640 pixels. It has a dual-core, 1.7GHz processor with 2GB of RAM. There’s a 13-megapixel camera and a basic 1-megapixel video camera for calls. Also, it runs Android’s 4.2.2 Jelly Bean—,not exactly the cutting edge.
However, Yoda Devices CEO Vladislav Martynov is already hinting at a second generation phone. “We are a start-up company that had a big idea and we’ve executed on that idea,” he said “This is YotaPhone 1.0. Expect other big and new things to follow.”
The YotaPhone retails for about $600 in Russia and $680 Austria, France, Germany and Spain. It will be rolled out to more markets in the Middle East and Europe in 2014, but there are no immediate plans to bring it to the U.S.
At that price point and limited distribution, few observers see YotaPhone mounting a serious challenge to Apple’s iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy line. Yahoo financial blogger Aaron Pressman even went so far as to say this “strange hybrid” was destined for “the Museum of Oddball Orphan Technology.”
But others are less quick to write off the two-faced YotaPhone.
Andy Boxhall at Digital Trends said that “this is exactly the type of smartphone we love to see, as it’s not afraid to try something new so it stands out. For that reason alone, it should be embraced.”
The YotaPhone gives off “an incredibly niche vibe” according to Chris Velazco of TechCrunch, but he also felt the innovation was noteworthy in itself. “If nothing else though, the path the company has chosen is an interesting one,” he writes, “and in a sea of smartphone sameness you can’t completely discount the value of a wild-eyed notion.”
Some in the mobile industry are willing to bet on the success of that wild-eyed notion, if not with the current YotaPhone, then with the next.
“The first device is a good way of showing something new,” Michael Tuch, CEO of mobile retailer Svyaznoy, told the Boston Globe. “What we’re looking for are actually the next devices, which I’m sure Yota has in their pockets.”