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Should the YotaPhone Worry Apple?

Should the YotaPhone Worry Apple?
December 4, 2013 10:23AM

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There are interesting uses for the YotaPhone from Yota Devices. But even with a good idea and interesting use cases, it may be a tough road to profitability for Yota Devices. Even firms like Nokia and LG have a hard time competing against Samsung and Apple. But the product is extremely unique and stands out. No one has done what YotaPhone is doing.

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Should Apple and Samsung be worried? A Russian company is trying to one up them both in the smartphone market with something called the YotaPhone.

Created by Yota Devices, the smartphone’s claim to fame is its dual screens and always-on status. The premium Android smartphone with its liquid crystal display on one side and electronic paper display on the other is now on sale in Russia, Austria, France, Spain and Germany. YotaPhone will retail for 19,990 RUB in Russia and €499 (about $676) elsewhere.

YotaPhone aims to help smartphone users overcome what it perceives as a frustration with the “always-dark screen.” By including a second screen that uses electronic paper display technology, users have access to the information they want and need without having to wake up their phones. The technology also promises to preserve smartphone battery power. In fact, the company said YotaPhone has seven to 10 times the battery life of other smartphones when it is in reading mode.

Driving Screen Innovation

“The typical user picks up and activates their smartphone more than 150 times a day,” said Yota Devices CEO Vlad 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.”

Yota Devices realized 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, an EPD provider, to adapt its 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. 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.”

Would Apple Be Interested?

We caught up with Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the YotaPhone. He told us there are some interesting use cases for the device.

“It’s a good idea,” Greengart said. “I do need to get hands on with the final version before I can issue any opinion on how well it actually works.”

But even with a good idea and interesting use cases, it may be a tough road to profitability for Yota Devices. Greengart noted that even established companies like Nokia and LG have a hard time competing against Samsung and Apple. Still, he said the product is extremely unique and stands out. No one has done what YotaPhone is doing.

“The company may be hoping that Samsung or Apple will buy it,” Greengart said. “It’s easy to talk about bringing a product to market successfully, but it’s harder to actually do it. If Yota Devices proves it can do it, then that alone is valuable.”

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