Russian Challenger Enters Smartphone Fray: What’s Their Secret Weapon?

Russian modem company Yota Devices has built a reputation launching 4G LTE networks in the mother country, but few could have predicted their decision to launch a smartphone next. In this highly competitive industry where smaller companies are quick casualties and even Microsoft has struggled to make in-roads, a newcomer has to bring something worthy to the table or go home in defeat. Yota believes they have just the thing.

Enter the Yotaphone

Enter the Yotaphone: a smartphone that resembles your average Android…at least until you turn it over. There, on the back, you’ll find a 4.3-inch e-paper display (EPD) like those found in the Kindle and the Nook. There is a vast range of applications for this secondary screen and, because it is an EPD, it can function in ways that an LCD screen can’t. Attempts have been made to market LCD dual-screen phones (such as the Kyocera Echo) but so far they have proven clunky and unsuccessful.

Typically, the backside of a phone doesn’t have a lot going on—just a camera and battery/SIM card access. By placing the EPD there, the Yotaphone is making more efficient use of the available surface area and eliminating the need for flipping, sliding, or unfolding the second screen. Plus, it’s always visible, which is what makes it so useful—it can stream news, stock tickers, Twitter feeds, or other data while it’s just lying on the table, and without even draining the batteries. EPD technology allows text and images to remain on-screen indefinitely (even after the battery dies), only using power when the display changes. Thus, you could use it to display a map or a boarding pass while your Yotaphone is powered down, or use it as a customizable skin of sorts. No doubt it will inspire a new wave of apps, as developers dream up innovative ways to use the EPD.

The Yotaphone won’t be ready for Christmas…in fact, it won’t see an international release until Q4 of 2013, but it’s definitely one to keep your eye on. Could this herald a new era of Russian contributions to technology?


Brent Urmey is an avid reader and writer on a variety of subjects, including social media, SEO, the Wireless industry, and life in Lancaster County, PA. He is a graduate of Drexel University and a survivor of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. You can connect with Brent on Google +.