The Strange Dual Screen Android Phone That Died Too Soon

The smart phone monopoly held by Apple and Android has often inspired outliers to try to stand out from the crowd, only to find too late that buyers have clear, non-negotiable expectations of how their devices should look and work.

An awkward appearance can be the kiss of death for an otherwise promising design. Smartphones aren't just convenient consumer tools; they're fashion statements. As such, fiddling with form factors is like playing with fire. LG is a major manufacturer of consumer electronics, but when they brought out the Wing with its crosswise screen, it tanked, not just that sole device, but, the company's entire smartphone business. Modular smartphones came with an exciting offer – phones users could upgrade and even repair themselves! – amplified by the full marketing might of Google.

If there was ever going to be an outlier that made its way in, Russian startup Yota's sensibly named YotaPhone would have been a solid bet. It delivered on style and substance at the same time. Alas, forces beyond its control sent it to join the LG Wing in retail oblivion.

Day late, dollar short

SlashGear played with a YotaPhone at CES 2013. The device has had a simple core offer: it's a smartphone with a tablet on its back. More accurately, the device had a traditional smartphone-style LCD screen on one face and an e-ink-style digital paper interface on the other. The e-ink side allowed for comfortable reading and note-taking, two activities other 2013 smartphones struggled to deliver. As the Verge reports, the YotaPhone 2 even came with unique customization options for the e-ink side.

Alas, smartphone innovation and changes in user habits outstripped Yota's most exciting offers. By the time the YotaPhone 3 hit market in 2017, users already had reliable, full-featured apps to do most of what an e-ink option could provide. Users had either pivoted to apps like Kindle Cloud Reader or bought dedicated e-book viewers like the Nook. In the end, the YotaPhone 3 was only ever released in China, where it failed to do sufficient business to keep the company afloat. Yota declared bankruptcy in 2019.