Have the Russians developed the smartphone of the future?

The YotaPhone is basically an iPhone with two faces: An LCD touchscreen on one side, and a black-and-white reader on the other

(Image credit: Yotaphone.com)

It's been a long time since the U.S. and Russia were in a serious technological race, and at least one Russian company has gotten tired of watching old highlight reels of Sputnik. Yota Devices, formerly a unit of Russia's state-run defense corporation, has unveiled a new smartphone that the company hopes will challenge the global supremacy of Apple's iPhone. The YotaPhone features a color, LCD touchscreen on one face, and a black-and-white e-reader on the other. "We created this to be different," CEO Vladislav Martynov tells The Wall Street Journal. "Most phones nowadays are boring — they are just boxes. This is a phone for people who want to be outside the box."

So what exactly is the point of a Janus-like phone? Yota says it's fulfilling a demand for more screens, as users increasingly employ their smartphones for a variety of purposes. The e-reader, which is designed to stay on constantly, can feature a Twitter stream or stock market quotes. The phone will also reduce the strain on the battery by throwing certain data — such as playlists or appointments — from the energy-guzzling touchscreen to the reader, supposedly boosting battery life by 50 percent. Furthermore, the reader can be used for more banal purposes: Showing the time, actual reading, or displaying a boarding pass, which will remain on screen even if the phone runs out of power.

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Ryu Spaeth

Ryu Spaeth is deputy editor at TheWeek.com. Follow him on Twitter.