Dienstag, 16. August 2016

The YotaPhone is most definitely unique. You might not be able to tell from the front, but flip this handset over and instead of a plastic flap or a stitched leather cover, you're faced with... another front, this time made up of an E Ink display much like the one in Amazon's Kindle e-reader. There have been numerous gimmicky attempts at making Android run on an electronic paper display, but what sets the YotaPhone apart from them is that it actually works. The second generation of this phone was introduced in December of last year and made massive strides forward in ergonomics and functionality. Now that it's received a hefty price cut, a new white version, a comprehensive Android Lollipop upgrade, and a tentative July release date for the United States, it's time for us to put the YotaPhone 2 to the test.

The essence of the YotaPhone's appeal lies in its combination of an extremely energy-efficient E Ink display with all the modern versatility of an Android smartphone. Think about how many commutes to and from work you can while away with the help of a Nook or a Kindle, and then imagine not needing a separate e-reading device at all. You have your smartphone with you all the time anyway, why not build the e-reader right into it, the same way that cameras, music players, and GPS units have already been integrated?

That's what YotaPhone 2 gives you: another step forward in the ceaseless march to smartphone convergence. It's not the first Android device with an E Ink screen, but it is the first to make that duo work harmoniously. Instead of trying to jam the full-fat Android experience onto the slow e-paper display on the rear, Yota has wisely contented itself with adding useful widgets and interactive panels. There is a Yota Mirror mode that allows you to run Android entirely on the back, but this is strictly optional and mostly to be used when trying to extend battery life (such as by reading an article in the browser without deploying the full-power display).
On the other side of the 4.7-inch E Ink screen is a 5-inch AMOLED display. The latter has a 1080p resolution, but suffers from poor color accuracy: it tends to oversaturate the picture and renders tomato reds in a carrot-like orange. These aren't new issues for OLED displays, and they're certainly tolerable in daily use, however the recent excellence of the Galaxy S6 has raised the bar of expectations and the YotaPhone 2 just can't compete. Yota clearly had to cut some corners in order to fit within budget, and it's elected to sacrifice some quality at the front for the greater versatility of having a display at the back.
The same is true of the YotaPhone 2's design. Much like its display, the phone's construction is just okay, nothing especially premium. It has a well rounded, uncomplicated shape that makes for comfortable ergonomics, but it also has a slight rattle in the volume rocker and a shallow power button that offers little tactile feedback. Competently made, though not something I'd ever fall in love with. But the YotaPhone 2's design story doesn't end when you buy the phone. The best part of it is only beginning.

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