Jolla Has A New Competitor From Russia With Love: The Yota Phone

Jolla’s launch on the 27th of November woke up the national pride of the Finnish citizens still recovering from the Nokia buyout, and gave Jolla’s ambitious product a good kick start towards their global goals.

The Sailfish OS based mobile device set out to gain their users trust with a dynamic design and interface, and of course the “Made in Finland” brand guarantee which still holds strong credibility all over the world.

But what about the Yota Phone then? Wait, what is the Yota Phone?

Well, the latest smartphone launch, which took place as recently as the 4th of December, happened in Russia, where the former state-run defense corporation, Yota Devices, finally released the result of 3 years of hard work in the form of a brand new touchscreen phone.

Finland is hyped with Jolla and the latest releases from mobile giants such as Android and Apple always reach the common folk, but Russian smartphones?  That’s new to me.

Instead of focusing so much on where the product comes from, it would be logical to compare how good the products are, and as much as I respect and support my country’s technological products, I have to admit I was more profoundly intrigued by the Yota phone than I was with Jolla.

First of all, I find the design concept behind the Yota Phone braver and more futuristic than its Finnish competitor. The Yota Phone is a dual screen smartphone that uses Android 4.2.2 Jelly Beans OS. Yes, I know it sounds whacky, as normally dual is a word you’d expect to hear in liaison with CPUs instead of screens, but you read correctly, the Yota phone has two screens. The front screen is a 1,280×720-pixel 4.3-inch LCD display where the user will be spending most of his/her time, as it is where the usual smartphone actions or performances are controlled from. The backside of the phone is composed of a 360×640-pixel 4.3-inch EPD display, also known as an e-ink screen, most commonly seen in e-book readers. Both sides have a camera lenses, the main camera having the more powerful 13MP and the secondary the much weaker 1MP lens.

To be straightforward, the front screen doesn’t offer anything extremely new and fascinating but the back screen does spice up the Yota phone to the extent it becomes an interestingly alternative smartphone. For instance, the e-ink display uses extremely little battery and therefore it will stay on even when the LCD is in sleep mode. It will constantly stay connected to the network and display any new, relevant notifications such as missed calls, messages, time, calendar appointments etc.

On top of this, you can scan anything from the LCD screen with a print screen action swipe and send it to the back screen, from which you can view the scanned and saved content by browsing through them page by page. One more thing worth mentioning is that the e-ink screen isn’t affected by sunlight, so at least screen light adjustments won’t be an annoyance anymore. The back screen isn’t a touchscreen though, instead, it is controlled with the three command touches in the lower bottom of the screen, as well as the up and down buttons on side of the device.

All in all, the e-ink screen is designed for intensive readers. How many will be carried away by this though, is an entirely another question. The existence of iPads and e-book readers with wide screens speaks for itself. Tiny screens are not exactly comfortable when it comes to reading.

But what really matters is the interface right? Well the Android 4.2.2 OS is a very solid system that will provide the Yota phone with nice apps while guaranteeing a user friendly experience.

Besides the fact that the Yota phone is definitely not the most high performance smartphone available for €400, and by this I mean the dual core 1.7GHz processor (compared to some much cheaper phones with quad-core CPUs), so will the dual-screen concept be enough to win a significant share of the market? Time will tell.

For now, though, the new smartphone couldn’t have hit the Russian markets at a better moment.

Russia has experienced tripled data traffic in the past year alone. This means Russians are eager to get better access to the World Wide Web, which is something the mobile companies have clearly acknowledged. Nearly €10 Billion is being invested into data speed upgrades nationwide, granting a huge amount of mobile users better Internet connections across the country. A new, national smartphone might be the choice of many new Russian mobile purchasers.

Russia alone can prove to be a lucrative enough market to conquer and countries like Nicaragua, Peru and India seem to have some brotherly solidarity towards an eastern made touchscreen device.

The Eastern promise of a competitor against western mobile industry should be taken seriously.

The phone launched Europe wide in countries like Germany, France and the UK but after some research it is clear these aren’t the primary target markets. The Yota phones 4G support suggests it could be a very interesting alternative for people in 3rd world countries, where wireless connections are undeveloped and scarce. Of course, this would mean the phones price would need to decrease and strong partnerships with local mobile service providers would need to be made.

To briefly get back to Jolla, I must say they compete on a completely new level of difficulty, as their device runs on their very own OS. The Beta version is still incomplete, slightly glitchy and getting accustomed to the new OS can take a while. It’s an unfinished project, and purchasing one will mean becoming a beta tester that may cause a few curses here and there, but an ability to provide feedback.

Jolla is in for a tough competition, but if it helps calming the minds of any dedicated Jolla fan out there, so is Yota.