The Yota Phone was a good idea with marrying a traditional E Ink display built into the back and a fully featured Android phone on the front. Being able to read eBooks without burning your eyes out is the reason why e-Readers have gained massive popularity in the last four years and you would figure a portable one would be amazing. Sadly, this is not the case. The Yota Phone suffers from a clunky interface, a sub-par reading experience and terrible hardware.
Good e-Reader is live on the scene at CES 2014 in Las Vegas Nevada and there were a few commercial release units of the Yota Phone. This was my first experience with this particular device and there is a huge learning curve in how to control the e Ink screen. There is absolutely no tutorials or documentation that outline exactly what you have to do to initiate the reading functionality. In order to take advantage of the e Ink screen you have to make sure the Android LCD is firmly off. In many cases the screen is simply asleep and it automatically wakes up if you are holding the phone to read.
The entire control scheme of the phone is the worst I have ever seen. There are no physical buttons, and instead you have to gesture on the bezel upwards or double tap in an indeterminate area to access the home screen. In some cases you have to swipe left or right to turn pages while reading a book. Some books require you have to turn pages using the volume keys, so there is no consistency in the eBook reading experience. The resolution is 640 x 360 pixel on the e-ink panel. Text can be fuzzy very hard to read, there is hardly any options to augment the text size too.
While the e-reading experience suffers overall, the pure Android phone is fairly satisfactory. Like most Android phones, all the keys are software driven. It has a 4.3 inch screen with a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. The dual core chip rated at 1.7 GHz does a good job at keeping things quick and peppy though it doesn’t have the more advanced quad core chips.
This phone is selling for close to $700 on the main Yota website and the limited production run was sold out right away. You can find one on the grey market, such as eBay for around $900. I would avoid this phone at all costs. If you are looking for a solid e Ink phone, take a look at the Onyx Phone that is going to hit the streets soon.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.