News Column

The dual-screen YotaPhone has taken Russia by storm. Now it's hit the GCC. Is the market ready?

May 31, 2014

Brace yourselves, everyone-the YotaPhone has just launched in the GCC. The first always-on premium Android smartphone, complete with a liquid crystal display on one side and an electronic paper display on the other, has gone on sale in the UAE at a retail price of AED 2,199. Over the following months, YotaPhone will be available in 20 markets in the CIS, Europe and the Middle East.

YotaPhone is a novel concept in smartphone space, but it solves some pretty basic problems most of us didn't know had solutions. How many times a day do you switch your screen on and off just to check the time, notifications, and news? The YotaPhone, with its always- on electronic paper display on the back, was designed to solve users' frustrations with their current smartphones' "alwaysdark" screen. By including a second screen that uses electronic paper display (EPD) technology, users have access to the information they want and need on a continual basis without having to wake up their phone. The technology also preserves smartphone battery power. In fact, in reading mode, YotaPhone has seven-10 times the battery life of other smartphones, according to YotaPhone.

A solution to a big problem?

"The typical user picks up and activates their smartphone more than 150 times a day," explains Yota Devices CEO Vladislav Martynov. "Why? Because users worry that messages or information they need or want are hidden behind their phone's black screen. This is a huge distraction and can impede meaningful interaction with our friends, families and colleagues."

According to Martynov, Yota Devices realised three years ago that electronic paper display (EPD) technology could make information available and visible without draining battery life and began working with E Ink to adapt their proprietary technology for a dual-screen smartphone.

"Once we determined that an electronic paper display would work as a second screen, an array of new and improved user experiences became obvious," said Martynov. "For example, YotaPhone combines a smartphone and e-reader into one device for those who enjoy reading on-the-go even in the brightest sunlight. You can save images and information on the second screen, and it stays there, even if you lose battery power. You can save anything on the always-on display from a map to a boarding pass. Information, like a missed call or meeting reminder, stays on the always-on screen until it is no longer needed."

Let's talk specs

Yota Devices worked with some of the world's leading suppliers and manufacturers to adapt their technology for YotaPhone. For example, YotaPhone is the first smartphone to use Corning's Gorilla 3 shaped glass. E Ink had to adapt its technology for a 4.3" screen and OEM Hi-P of Singapore worked with YotaPhone's hardware engineering team to develop a special chassis to house YotaPhone's six antennas on the outer rim.

Yota Devices developed patented software to allow information to be shared and used between YotaPhone's two screens. It has also developed a number of innovative applications that come preloaded onto YotaPhone.

Efforts are ongoing to continue to increase the usability of YotaPhone's EPD second screen. The Yota Alliance team is involved in increasing the number of apps and content, which will improve the YotaPhone experience for users, while building on the AlwaysOn and low battery drain mantra which is one of the core values of Yota Devices.

The Yota Alliance team is talking to partners globally and in the region to bring additional relevant content to the second screen. For the UAE they are in co-development phase with local content owners, particularly in the areas of special interests and faith, as well as local operators.

Award-winning YotaPhone facilitates more "emotional" communication

Since its unveiling one year ago, YotaPhone has received numerous awards and accolades. "YotaPhone isn't just a new phone, it's a new way for people to communicate and use information. Communication is more emotional and real with YotaPhone," explained Martynov. It was this feature that caught the attention of the jury of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity when it gave YotaPhone an Innovation Lion award in July 2013.

YotaPhone presents text messages from friends and loved ones using context sensitive database, for example emotional text will be displayed with images such as a heartorflowers.A"SmilefortheCamera" message appears when taking a photo. Reminders with entertaining images appear on the always-on screen, like a cake for birthdays. YotaPhone can be a personal coach, keeping track of exercise regimens or reminding you of personal goals. When YotaPhone's morning alarm rings, your custom daily RSS news feed appears. YotaPhone also has dynamic location-based wallpapers to keep users updated on their location, the time and the weather.

"We are a start-up company that had a big idea and we've executed on that idea. We looked at the smartphone from another side, literally, and created YotaPhone. We have many people and partners to thank, not least of which are tech enthusiasts around the world who have embraced the YotaPhone philosophy," said Martynov.

Availability in the GCC?

YotaPhone will be made available to customers in the GCC region through the Jumbo network of retail stores as well as through Jumbo's distribution partner network across the entire GCC region.

Jumbo Electronics CEO Vishesh L. Bhatia commented, "Jumbo is very proud of our capabilities to provide companies like Yota Devices with a fantastic retail network, servicing and distribution facilities for their products. It is excellent news to welcome Yota to our portfolio of world-class brands that we already sell and distribute in the UAE and across the GCC market. I am confident that our customers will be delighted with the quality of their products."

Yota Devices CEO Vladislav Martynov commented, "We are delighted to have signed this agreement with Jumbo that provides us with an excellent opportunity to provide our highly-innovative products to demanding and discerning Jumbo consumers across the region. We are confident that our YotaPhone and connectivity devices will meet the expectations of consumers and be successful in the market."

About Yota Devices

Yota Devices is a private international company dedicated to developing and producing high-tech consumer LTE equipment such as smartphones, modems and routers. The company has sold more than 3 million 4G connectivity devices since its first products went on the market in 2009. The company is also developing the world's first dual-screen, always-on smartphone, YotaPhone, which will go on sale in December 2013 in select markets in Russia, Europe and Middle East. The company's headquarters are located in Moscow with offices in Finland and Singapore.

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Source: financeME