When a company introduces a novel product, accompanied by a seriously questionable launch statement, it is easy to elect to ignore it, a factor that is too close to Iain Robertson, as he reviews an intriguing development.


Russian mobile communications firm, Yota Devices, has introduced a new mobile-phone. Its tagline is: ‘The phone with two fronts’. As I have a tough enough time deciphering my Android mobile, which has only one front, I did wonder as to the Yotaphone 2’s viability.


Naturally, I am going to avoid any painful Putinistic jibes about ‘two faces’, as the independent company producing this intriguing device, while less than five years old, has its roots deeply entrenched in Nokia territory. Of course, this leads to an inevitable query about why Nokia has not charged off down the two-faced route, when you contemplate its worldwide impact on the mobile communications scene.


Still, two faces are clearly better than one (it says here). There is no denying the wondrous, ergonomic and curvaceous tactility of the Yotaphone 2 (I should highlight that the first version was launched prematurely around 2013 and consumer feedback has led to the second variant being introduced very speedily thereafter). Despite its now typical, larger format, it is exceptionally slim, beautifully rounded and seems to fit the hand, or pocket, a lot easier than the other ‘fruit-based’ products on the market.


As a ‘smartphone’, fashion item as it is, it is unique enough to warrant a place in the new mobiles sector. Its e-ink rear face appears initially to be little more than a stylish concept; form ahead of function. Yet, operated as a Kindle-type e-reader, it is utterly fantastic, as its rear screen is still legible even in direct sunshine, of which I accept that we have not enjoyed much lately. For the person who enjoys reading on-the-move (no, not while driving!), not necessarily of books but more of documentation (legal, contractual and so on) but does not want the bulk of some of the popular e-readers, the Yotaphone offers innumerable benefits. For a start, it can boast 100 hours of reading potential, as a result of the truly low draw on battery power, thanks to its e-ink, 4.7-inch screen (the front screen, which operates as any other Android device does, is slightly larger at 5.0-inches). Its contrast can be altered within a limited frame, as can the ‘refresh’ rate, which is competitive with other e-readers. It wins on basic legibility and its comprehensive ‘touch’ facilities that enhance its overall functionality.


The bane of my life, which is not as major as it is for some ’professional’ smartphone users, is normal battery operational life, prior to demanding a recharge. Despite its slim construction, the Yotaphone 2 can boast exceptional conversation and operational durability, without denigration in quality. In fact, I managed three whole days (having left the USB charger cord at home) without losing its many 2.3GHz quad-core processor talents (2GB RAM, 32GB storage), which means that it is certainly up to and exceeding the potential of my Sony Xperia device….which I am now loathing a lot. Interestingly, its speaker reproduction quality is outstanding, possessing a tremendous breadth of musicality, when listening to the latest downloaded music album. However, used as a hands-free device, the volume range is extensive and the repro-quality first-class. Recipients of calls also stated that the Yotaphone 2 sounded very clear.


I realise that a lot of mobilephone users place their on-board cameras under a lot of strain. The illumination (flash) on the Yotaphone 2 (8mega-pixel) is brilliant. The fact that ‘selfies’ are an utter doddle to take, thanks to the twin-screen adaptability, is a bonus (not for me, you understand, but my kids loved it!). In daylight, the images resulting are very good, although night-time shots are less impressive, better the preserve of the SLR and a decent tripod.


That the Yotaphone 2 runs 4.4.2 OS, which the makers assure will be upgraded to Lollipop (5.0) in due course, and can mirror my android device proved beneficial, as apps could be transferred painlessly. The e-ink screen came into its own as a games base (chess and chequers are in-built), mainly because of its low power usage. However, at a whopping £555 ($850, in unlocked form), around 10% more costly than the ‘mass market appeal’ of an iPhone 5 but without word on whether service providers will latch onto the Yotaphone 2 in the near future, it could be termed an ‘expensive toy’ at a time when such extravagances might also be described as ‘extraneous’.


Personally, I enjoyed my trial period with Yotaphone 2. My maps app could be downloaded onto it, which made it very practical. It is exceptionally well-built, with great integrity that even tolerated an accidental drop onto the kitchen floor, with neither denigration of its high performance capabilities, nor any visible signs of damage (thanks heavens!).


Conclusion: I am most impressed by the Yotaphone 2’s solidity and lovely tactility and, even though I only really want a mobile with which to make just telephone calls, I can fully comprehend its wide range of ownership benefits. Were I to acquire an example, never having bought a Lada motorcar, it would be the second Russian product that I had ever bought, having owned a bulletproof Zenit 35mm camera a number of years ago that I know still works faithfully today!