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The Next Big Thing

Russia’s YotaPhone targeting China’s tech-savvy with two-screen smartphones

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 12:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 4:47pm

Russia’s YotaPhone sees China as a key market for its unique dual screen devices, where it will target the growing number of young smartphone users looking for new technologies.

“All the other smartphones are the same and we want to be different," said Vlad Martynov, CEO of YotaPhone, at the launch on Wednesday in Beijing of the YotaPhone2.

The high-end phone, with screens on the front and back, has aroused much curiosity in China after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave one to President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing last November.

The phone comes with a top-range price-tag of 4,888 yuan (US$790), putting it well above the 2,999 yuan cost of No 1 Chinese maker Xiaomi’s XiaomiNote device.

More than 500 million Chinese use smartphones and more than 390 million smartphones were manufactured last year, according to iResearch Consulting Group. However the market slowed for the first time in six years in the first quarter, according to research company International Data Corporation (IDC), just as a host of new companies are planning to wade in with new offerings.

Apple still dominates the market, taking 25 per cent of smartphone sales in urban China’s 2,000 to 4,000 yuan (US$320 to 640) monthly income bracket. Xiaomi sold 61 million smartphones and made 74.3 billion yuan in revenue in 2014.

Martynov said China is a key market, but the company is looking at 20 other countries, including Germany and Bahrain, instead of markets with large populations such as India and Brazil.

“Our strategy is to target younger markets with users with consuming power and who are willing to adopt new technology,” he told the South China Morning Post.

He said he is not worried about the high price tag of the phone, noting that some analysts had had similar concerns about Apple’s phones.

“We’ve designed a unique and most convenient smartphone that will attract more fans,” he said.

The back of the YotaPhone2 has a screen using electronic ink (e-ink) technology, like Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, useful for reading e-books without draining the phone’s battery.  

Martynov said the inspiration for the design came from his own experience of having sore eyes from heavy reading on a normal smartphone screen, and the limited battery life of smartphones that interrupted his work while travelling.

With e-ink technology, the phone’s battery can last 100 hours, YotaPhone has said. Users can customise the arrangement of apps and there is a “one key” function to move apps between the two screens. The phone supports the Android 4.4 kitkat operating system.

YotaPhone2 is made in China and marketed through Hangzhou Jielan Information Technology Co, a company that invests in and runs businesses in the communications, retail, finance, healthcare and IT areas.

“A two-screen smartphone will lead the trend in China: I can see it occupying a 20 per cent or more market share in the next a few years,” Hangzhou Jielan CEO Song Xiaodong told the Post in a separate interview at the launch event.

The YotaPhone2 will be sold through YotaPhone's own China online store and via e-commerce giants tmall.com and JD.com. 

Hangzhou Jielan will partner with China Unicom to offer the phones on the telecom provider’s 3G and 4G mobile internet networks, and will work with Chinese computer and phone firm to offer repair and related services.

The brand plans to offer buyers phone credits, free video programmes and copies of books as a strategy to build market share.    

 

This article was amended to correct the name of the phone to YotaPhone2.