The Next Big Thing

Russian dual-screen smartphone given by Putin to Xi to go on sale in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 9:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 7:34pm

Russian dual-screen smartphone Yota, which President Vladimir Putin gave to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping late last year, will go on sale in China from April, according to the top boss at the smartphone maker.

Speaking at the Boao Forum in Hainan, Vladislav Martynov, chief executive of Yota Devices, said the company's new model, YotaPhone 2, will be launched in mid-April in partnership with Chinese state-backed equipment provider Potevio.

"It is made in China and will be on sale next month," Martynov said of the dual-screen phone that was first launched in December.

While mainland consumers have to wait until next month to buy the Russian-designed, Chinese-made smartphone, Hong Kong mobile phone network operator 1010 has been heavily promoting Yotaphone 2 for the past few weeks to its existing customers, offering the device for free with certain subscription packages.

YotaPhone 2 stands out among the smartphone pack thanks to its dual-screen design. Its rear display is an always-on Amazon Kindle-like electronic-ink screen, which streams social media updates, text messages, maps, weather and breaking news, and works as a small e-book reader.

"The phone stands out not because two screens is better than one, but because the second screen serves users in many fundamental ways," Martynov said at Boao.

Even though it has two screens, its battery consumption was lower than many other smartphones, he said. "I can read for up to a hundred hours on the phone, and I can get on social media for a long time."

The second screen's electronic-ink display would also work well in sunlit places such as Hainan, he said. "Conventional screens don't work well in the sun, but with the second screen you can read easily on the beach."

The device has enjoyed the high-profile support of Putin, who gave Xi the smartphone when they met in Beijing at the APEC summit in November. The company clearly hopes this presidential endorsement will work well in China. Martynov previously said that the original YotaPhone sold poorly in the 20 countries where it was marketed, but he hopes China will be a promising market for the company's latest device.

The phone is sold for £550 in the UK (US$825), according to its website, but it is unclear how much it will cost in China, where consumers' preference for high-spec, low-cost phones has propelled Xiaomi to becoming the biggest smartphone maker in the country.

Russian minister of communications and mass media Nikolai Nikiforov led a delegation which included Yota Devices for talks with Miao Wei, China's minister of industry and information technology, on Friday. Nikiforov told reporters afterwards the phone would be launched in a month or two, pending certification.

Russia's state-run defense company Rostec has a 25.1 per cent stake in Yota Devices, while Telconet Capital, a fund backed by several Russia technology entrepreneurs, owns the rest.