Yota Phone 2 to launch Chinese version in Q2
Photo taken on March 28, 2015 shows a Yota Phone 2 is displayed in a press meeting at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference held in Hainan province. [Gao Yuan/chinadaily.com.cn]
Yota Devices, the developer of YotaPhone, the world's first dual screen smartphone with an always on e-ink display, announced a joint venture with domestic firm JieLan Ltd to promote, sell and provide customer service for YotaPhone in China on Saturday in Hainan province, during the ongoing 2015 Boao Forum for Asia.
According to a news statement from Yota, a special version of YotaPhone 2 supporting local LTE frequencies will be available in Q2 in China.
In Nov 2014 Russian president Vladimir Putin presented the Russian-designed and Chinese-manufactured YotaPhone to President Xi Jinping as the symbol of cooperation between Russia and China in the field of the consumer electronics.
"The Chinese market shows high demand and interest for YotaPhone 2, since the creation, design, and technology of smartphone is truly unique and innovative. That is what attracts Chinese customers, active users of smartphones and people who are open to conceptually new types of devices and gadgets," said Song Xiaodong, CEO of JieLan Ltd.
Due to the second always-on electronic paper display, YotaPhone offers unique and valuable features such as the ability to have basic smartphone functions for up to 3 days on a single charge and ability to use the smartphone in direct sunlight. The e-ink display also provides a comfortable reading experience.
"The high-capacity and fast growing Chinese market is one of the most promising for YotaPhone, especially in light of the development of Russian-Chinese trade and economic relations," said Vladislav Martynov, CEO of Yota Devices.
According to Martynov, the next generation of Yota will be launched in early 2016. He did not estimate the sales target but said the plan was "ambitious".
The Chinese version also includes a preinstalled package of the most popular domestic mobile applications and social apps that have been localized and adapted for the second screen, such as Ireader, Wechat and Sina Weibo.
YotaPhone 2 has two touch displays, one color AMOLED and one black-and-white EPD-display, which uses the technology of electronic ink.
EPD-display consumes significantly less energy than color displays. When using the basic functions of the phone, such as phone calls, SMS, e-mail and word processing with the color display off, users can use the device up to three days without recharging.
EPD-display does not glare in the sun, even in direct sunlight, is less irritating to the eyes and provides a viewing angle of 180 degrees. User notifications are automatically displayed on the always-on the second screen and remain there even if the smartphone battery is fully discharged.
The debut of Yotaphone 2 took place in December last year in Moscow. So far, the device has been sold in more than 22 countries around the world.
Russia's Yota Devices, the maker of a dual-screen smartphone which has so far proved a flop with consumers, has reached its first mass market distribution deal with an agreement to sell phones in China through state-backed Potevio Co.
The YotaPhone has attracted a minor cult following among gadget enthusiasts with its distinctive, two-screen phone that seeks to stand out in a crowded, undifferentiated mobile market.
While the phone has a conventional screen for calls and other common phone functions, on the flip side it sports a second, always-on display that streams social media, text messages, maps, weather and breaking news and works as a mini e-book reader.
The YotaPhone has enjoyed the high-profile backing of President Vladimir Putin who was photographed handing one to Chinese President Xi Jinping on his November trip to China.
Moscow-based Yota said late Tuesday that Potevio would begin sales across China of its latest YotaPhone2 models this quarter. Potevio sold 36 million phones in China last year for a total of 46 billion yuan ($7.4 billion), according to the company.
Yota Chief Executive Vlad Martynov said an earlier version of the YotaPhone, which sold poorly in 20 countries where it was marketed, was merely a proof of concept, but that China held out promise as the Russian handset maker's first mainstream market.
"China will be the biggest market in terms of volumes, no doubt about that," Martynov told Reuters in a phone interview.
Trying to stand out
Martynov said Yota had reached deals with the biggest online sales portals in China and signed up 20 top content providers to offer popular local features including social media, search, e-book, stock and weather information.
But entering the world's most competitive phone market poses significant challenges. While more than 284 million phones were sold in China in the first nine months of 2014, according to government data, shipments fell 10.9 percent year over year.
Moreover, in excess of 90 percent of handsets were sold by domestic brands, which charge around $200 for increasingly sophisticated smartphones, leaving less than 10 percent of the market to foreign brands priced at $400 to $500 or more.
Martynov said Yota was betting its unique dual-screen features and localized content would distinguish it from other high-end phones running Google's Android software, while selling at somewhat lower prices than rival premium-priced phones.
Data from market research firm IDC showed Yota shipped only 109,000 phones in the five quarters ending in December. Russia received 55 percent, Central and Eastern Europe took 26 percent, but shipments to Western Europe and elsewhere were tiny.
“The problem with Yota is that it looks like an interesting concept," IDC mobile analyst Francisco Jeronimo said of the dual-screen. "But when we started playing around with the latest model, we asked ourselves whether we really needed two screens.”
Yota is 25.1 percent-owned by Russian state conglomerate Rostec, while Telconet Capital, a fund backed by Russian technology entrepreneurs, has a 74.9 percent stake.