YOTAPHONE 2 launches in China

2015-05-21 09:01Global Times Editor: Li Yan

Russian phone features 2 screens, will cost almost 5,000 yuan

Russian smartphone company YOTA Devices on Wednesday officially launched its new flagship YOTAPHONE 2 in China in partnership with the country's second largest telecom carrier by subscribers, even as the world's largest smartphone market is slowing down.

In order to open up the market, YOTA Devices has inked a tie-up with China Unicom to sell the YOTAPHONE 2 via the telecom carrier's online and off-line stores as well as offer contracted handsets to China Unicom subscribers, Song Xiaodong, CEO of Hangzhou Jielan Information Technology Co, told the Global Times Wednesday during a press conference in Beijing.

The Hangzhou-based company and YOTA Devices set up a joint venture in March to market and sell the YOTAPHONE 2 in China, according to a joint press release issued at the conference.

The landing of the YOTAPHONE 2 in China comes at a time when the country's smartphone market is said to have little room for huge growth.

IDC's latest report said on May 11 that smartphone shipments in China contracted for the first time in six years, down 4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, signifying some headwinds for the Russian smartphone maker.

The company's CEO Vladislav Martynov knows about the trend, but still expressed faith in the market.

"I see the smartphone market slowed down in the country because there were no innovative handsets launched in the last three years… Our phone is innovative, and I think we can speed up the replacement cycle," Martynov told the Global Times Wednesday.

The CEO highlighted the dual-screen YOTAPHONE 2's 4.7-inch e-ink display, which is expected to save battery power and enable users to check important notification even if the other side - a normal touch screen - runs out of power.

Analysts, however, said that the handset will likely receive a cold reception in China due to the lack of distinctive and appealing features in comparison with local smartphones.

Li Yi, secretary-general of China Mobile Internet Industry Alliance, told the Global Times Wednesday that YOTAPHONE 2 would not be the next-generation smartphone that most Chinese consumers are looking for.

"The user experience of switching from the e-ink screen to the normal touch-screen is slow and disappointing," said Li, claiming that he tried the gadget a few months ago and abandoned it after one month.

Li's opinion was echoed by Wang Yanhui, head of Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliances.

"Not many Chinese people have the habit of viewing things on an e-ink screen, which saves battery life but is rather slow," Wang told the Global Times Wednesday.

People who love to read e-books via e-ink screen devices such as Amazon's Kindle are expected to be potential users of the YOTAPHONE 2, said Song.

But the price tag for the YOTAPHONE 2 will make some Kindle lovers like Yu Xin lose their appetite for the gadget.

"I would only consider buying one to save the trouble of carrying two devices like the Kindle and iPhone at once, if the phone costs less than 3,000 yuan ($483.6)," Yu told the Global Times Wednesday.

The YOTAPHONE 2 is available for preorder in China Wednesday via YOTA Devices' official website and domestic e-commerce marketplaces such as for 4,888 yuan ($788), while in its home market, the device is priced at 39,990 rubles ($780).

The price tag will not appeal to the majority of consumers in China, said Wang. "The YOTAPHONE 2 features no distinctive features in comparison with local branded smartphones that cost around 1,500 yuan."

But both Wang and Li said that the YOTAPHONE 2 will have a niche market among rich people in China, thanks to its high-profile exposure at the APEC meeting in November 2014.

The dual-screen device made headlines after it was given as a gift by Russian President Vladimir Putin to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the event in Beijing.

The first YOTAPHONE is priced at 13,990 rubles on the company's official website. Around 12,000 units of the YOTAPHONE were reportedly sold in Russia and four EU countries in the first month after it was launched in December 2013.

YOTA Devices refused to reveal the current sales figures for the first YOTAPHONE or disclose the sales target for the YOTAPHONE 2 during the press conference.

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