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Dual-screen Yotaphone launches in Europe

The world's first "always-on" dual-screen smartphone has gone on sale in five European countries today, with the UK launch expected next month.

The Yotaphone (opens in new tab) will first be available in online stores in Russia, France, Spain, Germany and Austria for the price of €499 (£414), before going on sale in 20 markets across Europe and the Middle East by the end of Q1 2014.

The device aims to solve the problem of the "always-dark" screen, by giving users access to information such as message notifications without having to wake up their phone. By using an E-ink screen, the Yotaphone can also offer longer battery life.

"The typical user picks up and activates their smartphone more than 150 times a day," said Yota Devices CEO Vlad Martynov. "Why? Because users worry that messages or information they need or want are hidden behind their phone's black screen. This is a huge distraction and can impede meaningful interaction with our friends, families and colleagues."

The idea of incorporating an E-ink display into a smartphone was first conceived three years ago. Since then, a broad range of functions have been realised for the second screen.

"We are a start-up company that had a big idea and we've executed on that idea. We looked at the smartphone from another side, literally, and created YotaPhone," said Martynov.

"Once we determined that an electronic paper display would work as a second screen, an array of new and improved user experiences became obvious.

"For example, YotaPhone combines a smartphone and e-reader into one device for those who enjoy reading on-the-go. You can save images and information on the second screen, and it stays there, even if you lose battery power. You can save anything on the always-on display from a map to a boarding pass."

Issues have already been raised about the quality of the E-ink screen, however, with one reviewer complaining about the clarity of the display.

"The biggest issue lies with the quality of the display," said CNET's Andrew Hoyle (opens in new tab). "It has a low 360x640-pixel resolution, which makes text and icons look very fuzzy -- when I put a shot of the Android home screen on the e-ink display, I was barely able to read the app names."

In terms of technical specs, the Yotaphone runs on the Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 operating system with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard memory. Both screens are 4.3in and it also features a 13-megapixel back camera and a 1-megapixel snapper on the front.

The Yotaphone first appeared on the mobile industry's radar earlier this year, with ITProPortal getting a hands-on review (opens in new tab) of the device at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February.