Thought Chasm these posts, while infrequent and poorly thought out, are also not all that complex, structurally.

The Maybe Promise of YotoPhone

You may have a life and don’t know what YotoPhone is. That’s great for you; it’s a phone that is Android with a full color LCD on one side and Android on an e-ink (think Kindle) display on the other.

The first version was pretty wonky; you had to sort of send things to the e-ink side actively. It also seemed slow and didn’t really look like a smartphone as they’ve conceptually formed thus far.

But there’s a new version out, and I’m intrigued; a lot. I’m intrigued enough that I’ve put forty-seconds toward thinking myself into one. Well, not a YotaPhone, so much as a 7” version of a table that runs iOS (or even Android).

It’s a fun thought experiment, maybe one that exists in the bowels of Cupertino. So let’s hypothesize an iRead (trademark, registered, patent pending), shall we?

I like my Paperwhite. I like my iPad (4). I’m fairly certain I’d like an iPad mini just as well. So, this should-totally-come-out-later-this-year iRead is probably something I’d love.

Let’s say Apple finds a way to shrink their bezel even smaller, almost to the point of an edge-to-edge screen. That’s great; and it still leaves enough room for the typical six-inch e-reader display, with adequate reading bezel, on the back.

Let’s use space gray for the body, or match it to the grays of an e-ink display, so it blends smoothly. If you’re a total nutcase and you get a white iPad, you can choose the background screensaver image for full customizability. For the e-ink display (herein, The Back), use whatever Kobo’s using on their hi-dpi versions. Hell, just buy Kobo. You’d get retina on both sides.

When is The Back on?

In this way, you’d have a dedicated reader or low-energy notification screen available at all times. The accelerometer would control whether The Front or The Back display is active.

That’s it.

Notification Center

  • LCD up: Notifications appear on The Front, probably with actionable options. You’re getting a typical iPad experience. It’s almost as good as a Kindle Fire.

  • LCD down: Notifications appear on The Back. You can read books, newspapers, comics, or PDFs on a screen that sips power, lengthening the battery by hours or days.

You can already control notifications at a pretty granular level. With the iRead, you’d get an additional option to display notifications on The Back. For apps with “appear on lock screen” enabled, this would be on by default[1]. These options would only appear on the iRead.


Maybe it’s just iBooks available on The Back, so when you unlock there’s no clutter, just your books. Tap, swipe, you’re reading.

Once that’s been established, Amazon gets the government to sue again, or The Verge complains, there could be user control enabling an app on The Back, giving you slow, grayscale access to specialized apps. Maybe a new set of assets are included for those, like universal apps today.

Some apps could appear on both sides by default. Kindle, iBooks, Instapaper, Pocket, Twitter, and Newsstand (with controls for which publications) come to mind.

The real world

Is this feasible? Absolutely.

The reality? I’ll have to go with a hard “no”.

For one thing, this phone is an outlier. As we’ve seen with the ghost-of-big-phones-past, Apple doesn’t target the fringe until they know they can beat it. This would also mean more compression to keep the iPad mini as thin as it is, which will take time.

Well, that and you’d need a pretty ugly case to make it work. Apple doesn’t make ugly cases.

  1. One would assume that if you’d like a notification to appear on The Front, you wouldn’t mind it appearing on The Back. This would also be a cool way to manage notifications to a watch, which wouldn’t need a dedicated management app. If there’s an iWatch paired, these would become visible.  ↩

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