MWC 2013 – Hands on with the YotaPhone's dual E Ink and LCD displays

Is this seemingly-bonkers handset's twin-screen setup twice as nice for the price?

For a first time handset from this former modem specialist the YotaPhone feels impressively solid. It’s light and slim, but strong and comfortable to hold. Oh, and it has two screens. The rear E Ink display, curved under Gorilla Glass (on both sides) is barely noticeable to the touch – but offers a great, near instant low power display option.

Round the front, there's a 4.3in LCD display, the resolution of which looks plenty clear running the unskinned Android Jelly Bean 4.2 OS. We were pleased to hear YotaPhone will not be skinned to allow for instant OS updates, a la the Google Nexus 4.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 processor made for lag free use while we were flitting around in its Android guts, snapping pics and recording video. Although the camera’s location (on the bottom left of the front) took some getting used to – many a snap of pinkie fingers on that Gallery.

YotaPhone does away with the usual Android buttons in favour or a very intuitive swipe function. A half swipe along the bottom goes back, a whole slide takes you home, while holding the area in the centre of the phone brings up multitasking. We were told the edges of the phone may also have swipe functions on the final released model – which is due to hit Europe by the end of this year.

At any time when using the LCD screen, a two finger swipe down the screen takes a screenshot and displays it on the E Ink screen. Ideal for online tickets or a map you want to remain on your E Ink screen after the battery has died. It also means the YotaPhone is pretty easy to customise without shelling out for a case.

Some screens developed for the YotaPhone's E Ink display include a weather report, clock, Twitter feed, Facebook feed, and RSS reader. All of these were developed using a free SDK, which many app developers are adapting their apps to work with. According to YotaPhone, it only takes about two hours to do this.

Another nice touch is the ability to control how much battery you conserve by choosing how often you want the E Ink screen to update. Listening to music? Have it update every second in time with the playbar, or every track with the album cover.

It might not be the most powerful smartphone we've come across, but those dual LCD and E Ink screens are an interesting innovation – and a great way to conserve battery life.

Check out all of our Mobile World Congress coverage

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