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printed October 20, 2017
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Review: YotaPhone 2

Form Performance Basics E-Ink Screen Extras Wrap-Up Comments  

Media

There are no surprises in store when it comes to media apps on the Y2. It offers the same Google Play Music, Movies, Books, and Newsstand apps that are installed on most Android phones. They sync well with the Play Store and its varied content. The newest versions of the apps are pretty good and work well as long as you don't mind leaving most of your content in the cloud. There are no simple music/video apps for sideloaded content, but there are many available from the Play Store. The Y2 also includes the standard YouTube application as well as an FM radio (headphones required).

Media  

Camera

The Y2 uses the newest version of Google's standard Android camera app. The lock screen shortcut is the fastest way to launch the camera, and it opens fairly quickly.

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The camera has two main screens: shooting mode and menu mode. The shooting mode includes a huge shutter button and some settings, which can be accessed pressing the three little dots that appear in upper right corner. A strip of icons drops down that allow you to swap to the user-facing camera, toggle the flash and HDR on/off, turn on the framing grid, and set a timer. Pressing the shutter button captures images quickly.

If you want to capture anything other than regular pictures, you need to call up the larger menu. Slide your finger from the left side of the screen toward the center and you'll see the different capture modes that are available. They include photo sphere, panorama, lens blur, camera, and video camera.

Lens blur makes the subject of photos stand out against the background by ensuring that they're in focus, while everything else is out of focus or blurred. Lots of phones offer this type of feature, but perhaps call it something else. I think this feature is a bit hard to use, but there's a tutorial to teach you how it works. Like a Lytro camera, you can select any part of the image to be in focus after the fact (either the foreground or the background). The other shooting modes have been available to smartphones for several years.

From the menu mode screen, you can also press a little cog in the corner to adjust aspect ratio, image resolution, video resolution, and how the camera handles exposure.

It's definitely not the most user-friendly camera software ever devised, but once you get used to the layout it works quickly.

One last note: when using the camera, the Always-On Display shows a pair of eyes, as if to let others know you're looking at them and possibly taking their pictures. You won't be sneaking any creepshots with the Y2.

Camera  

Photos

The Y2 has an 8-megapixel sensor and it does a fairly good job. I was generally pleased with the phone's ability to capture accurate images in a range of lighting conditions. It did well outdoors and showed accurate focus, white balance, and exposure the majority of the time. Indoor shots showed a bit more grain than I'd prefer to see. Using the flash didn't result in horribly blue images. Bottom line: you can use the Y2 to handle most of your photography needs.

The front camera captures 2.1 megapixels and does a passable job. It's not the best selfie cam in the market, but it's certainly not the worst.

Photos  

Gallery

The Y2 has both the older stock gallery app and the newer Photos app from Google. You can use either app to manage your photo library, but the Photos app has surpassed the old Gallery app in my opinion. It has better editing functions and allows for automatic backups to your Google account online. Editing features include a range of effects, filters, and fun stuff in addition to basics such as crop and rotate. The new backup features let you access your photos from Google+ or Google Drive online, which is a boon for those who like to keep things organized.

Gallery  

Video

Both cameras can capture 1080p HD video. The main video camera does a commendable job of delivering accurate results. It consistently produced good focus, white balance, and exposure in all but the darkest spaces. I wouldn't recommend you record major life events with the Y2, but your everyday video needs are in good hands here.

Apps

The unlocked version of the Y2 we tested was free of bloaty carrier apps, but had a handful of Yota apps, such as a book reader, RSS reader, as well as chess, checkers, and Sudoku.

Bluetooth

The Y2 includes Bluetooth 4.0 and a typical assortment of profiles for connecting with your car, your PC, other phones, and of course headsets and speakers. The Y2 paired with everything without issue and all the profiles functioned as expected. I thought phone calls routed to my car's hands-free system were quite good, but music sent to my favorite pair of headphones could have been much better had Yota included support for the aptX profile (it didn't.)

Browser

Chrome is the only browser installed on the Y2 and that's fine with me. It's a perfectly good browser and renders web sites quickly and accurately. It performed well on AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA networks. Compared side-by-side with LTE-equipped phones, the Y2 was only slightly slower to load most web sites. That bodes well for a version that's customized for U.S. LTE networks.

Browser  

Clock

The lock screen has a white, digital clock like most Android smartphones, but the best way to check the time is with the Always-On Display. The e-ink screen offers a handful of clock options, and since the paper display is always on you'll always have a view of the time. As mentioned earlier, the e-ink screen is visible under even the harshest sun glare.

Clock  

GPS

The Y2's GPS radio worked perfectly. It located me quickly and accurately when paired with Google Maps, which is the only navigation software pre-loaded. I had no trouble navigating between points. Real-time traffic alerts helped me avoid snarled traffic on the Garden State Parkway when returning home from my grandparents' house Easter evening.

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