Yota is an operator in Russia with plenty of ambition. They bet on WiMAX technology more than half a decade ago, thinking it would be the next big thing. When they realized they picked the wrong technology, they quickly migrated their network over to LTE. Now the company is looking to enter the device market.

Today they announced a smartphone called the “YotaPhone”. Terrible name aside, it’s quite an interesting piece of kit. It runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, has a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, 4G LTE (of course), but what makes it interesting are the displays. Yes, displays. The YotaPhone features a 4.3 inch 720p LCD manufactured by JDI on the front of the device, and an electronic ink display on the back. Why put an e-ink display on the back of a smartphone?

Vlad Martynov, the CEO of Yota Device, says it best:

“Today if you want to check your email, calendar or social media page, you have to pick up your phone, turn it on, open the application and only then can you receive the information. With YotaPhone, this information will appear on the electronic paper display effortlessly, continuously and updated in real time.”

To put it another way, they know that people look up a handful of things over and over again. Instead of wasting energy powering up a smartphone’s display just to check if someone liked the photo you just uploaded to Facebook, now you just have to check the back of your phone.

Is this innovative? Absolutely, but we’re not convinced that developers are going to take advantage of this technology. Yota controls the e-ink display, so Yota dictates which services are integrated and how often they’re checked for new information. That means Yota has an incredibly responsibility to not mess this up, because if they do … forget about it.

When will the phone come out and how much will it cost? The latter question we can’t answer. And as for the former, the company says the second half of 2013. Ouch.

Update: Thanks to Mobile-Review, we now have a hands-on video.