Russia’s Yota Devices and its two-sided smartphones relocating to Canada

Daniel Bader

August 7, 2014 2:00pm

Canada may seem a strange place for a Russian device manufacturer to relocate, but when one of the co-founders was born here, and the other is looking to make inroads into the lucrative North American smartphone market, things begin to make more sense.

Moscow-based Yota Devices, the company behind the YotaPhone, an Android device with a regular LCD screen on front and a touch-sensitive e-ink panel on the back, has decided to relocate to Toronto or Waterloo in the wake of surplus engineer availability due to BlackBerry restructuring.

While the devices are not currently available in North America, CEO Vlad Martynov says that will be one of the company’s first moves once it settles into its new digs.

Yota Devices began in 2009 selling routers, modems and LTE chips, but decided to leverage some of its market power to create a device that offers the best of both worlds: a powerful Android device on the front, and a low-power e-ink display on the back. Though the prospect of reading entire books on a 5-inch smartphone is not compelling to many users, the ability to switch back and forth between the two screens, saving battery cycles in the process, is certainly something worth considering.

The company, according to The Financial Post, already has more than 15 former BlackBerry employees on its staff out of a total of 150, and Yota also nabbed some former Nokia engineers when they were let go.

YotaPhone2, the second in the series, features a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, an 8MP rear camera and a 4.7-inch e-ink touch panel on the back, all running Android 4.4. The beauty is that, unlike the first device, touch sensitivity on the e-ink panel allows for far more apps to run, though they still need to be optimized for the device. It will be available in Europe by the end of the year, and hopes to launch in North America sometime next year.

As for why Yota Devices didn’t move to the States like most OEMs? “Lower costs, tax benefits and government support, on top of the potential recruitment opportunity,” Martynov told the Post. The goal is to get listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and raise $100 million in the next year to fund the company’s worldwide expansion.

  • Joseph

    Well I shall continue to keep my eyes out for them!

  • Striker67

    Interesting device indeed. Will keep an eye out for it.

  • FTR_Part_deux

    I wonder if Stevie Harper will intervene on this one…

    • Adam Reinhardt

      lol at the thought of a conservative turning away business

  • howitzerr

    Moving to Canada is always a good idea, if you have papers…

  • canuck07

    It will be smeared as a spyware-infested, communist phone by the i****s who suck up to the US.

    • Tommy Crosby

      Your argument is a fallacy of defective induction a.k.a hasty generalization and therefore, invalid.

    • koconor100

      Actually we’re busy smearing the USA google /android stuff as spyware infested .
      Some corperation with no interests or subsiduaries in the USA is a nice change of pace.

  • hoo dat

    Hey, MobileSyrup, did you delete my comment? If so, could you explain why?

    • wacom

      they run this thing like a dictatorship. don’t expect your comments to be posted

    • hoo dat

      What I wrote was historically and factually accurate with some supposition thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t even close to being inflammatory and yet they permit all those trolls post half truths, outright lies and derogatory comments in the BlackBerry threads. *Shrugs*

    • wacom

      don’t be surpised. they promote all fandroid fanboi comments

    • Nexzen

      Who cares…

    • ScooterinAB

      Yep.

  • It’s Me

    not sure I get the need for a 2nd screen as a dedicated e-reader, but nice to see them moving to Canada. Not sure why they’d move to Toronto though. Not exactly a hotbed for technology. I guess if they just want a corporate and sales HQ Toronto makes sense.

    • Tommy Crosby

      Right now it’s the best choice for any Smartphone manufacturers to snag good engineers with existing experience:
      “…has decided to relocate to Toronto or Waterloo in the wake of surplus engineer availability due to BlackBerry restructuring…”

    • It’s Me

      Waterloo I get. Makes sense. Toronto? Not so much.

    • Tommy Crosby

      It’s 1 hour of drive between them.
      Toronto emplacement would probably reduce transportation cost and be better for proximity for anything.
      And whatever, does it really matter?

    • It’s Me

      If you’re trying to attract former BB employees, telling them they’ll either have to face a huge cost of living increase or a crap commute (and closer to 1.5 hours away) isn’t going to make you all that attractive.

      Does it matter? There are reasons for the still growing cluster of tech companies in KW. Avoiding TO is one of them. Guess it matters.

      I didn’t say it was a big deal. Just that TO doesn’t make sense to me over Waterloo.

    • Ed Yates

      Clearly says ” Toronto or Waterloo” I dont know who taught you guys to read but its not stated that they ARE moving to Toronto

    • It’s Me

      Umm, yeah. Who said they made a decision one way or the other? Not sure who taught you to read either if you think you read that.

  • Sequoia46.2

    I don’t think they are looking to sell to a failing company when they have tons of space to grow on their own.

  • Sequoia46.2

    I was always interested in this phone, I think I would love it for e-books at the right price. They should make a double sided 6-7 inch tablet like this!

    • Bri Bru

      6 inch double screen phablet would definitely be nice.

    • Sequoia46.2

      It would be my perfect e-reader

  • Tommy Crosby

    A new phone company in Canada is a good thing, no mater which one it is.
    And this one is very promising!

    • Elabi Rossonero

      I wouldn’t say very promising, but very interesting ideas..still not perfected.

  • Raj Singh

    Awesome. I’ve been on the lookout for this phone since it was announced… will keep my eye out for it. Too bad they didn’t relocate to British Columbia though.

  • G35

    They are not moving anywhere. Have we forgot about the sanctions because of what’s happening in the Ukraine.

    • ScooterinAB

      Perhaps that’s why they are moving. Not everyone is on board with the conflict. That or espionage.

    • G35

      agreed. i would want to move also but unfortunately because of the sanctions the
      government has imposed on Russia they will not be allowed into
      Canada for the time being.

    • Cody Chapman Applegarth

      “Canada may seem a strange place for a Russian device manufacturer to relocate, but when one of the co-founders was born here”

  • wacom

    goodbye rim

  • Buzz88

    Cool idea but I don’t see it being practical unless the B&W side is big enough to replace an eReader and how do you hold it without activating gestures on the back.

  • koconor100

    Aha !

    A non USA phone to replace my aging android.

    Yota you say ?

    I’m willing to give them a try.

    Confusion to Google ! and the NSA !

  • ShadowFist23

    I’d much rather have a Project Ara device with an e-ink display that I can swap out for a normal display when I want to read or desire a lot more battery time.

  • mad cracker

    All your base belong to us.

  • Matt

    I don’t think Mr. Putin will like this one..

  • Gohy

    Nice. I always wanted to try one of these to replace my phone + kindle. Keep in mind most standalone ereaders only have a 6″ screen so thats not too much bigger than a yota’s screen

  • Elabi Rossonero

    If I’m not mistaken I believe they’ll be setting up shop somewhere in the Maritimes. New Brunswick most likely.

  • Plazmic Flame

    This is definitely what I was thinking. I don’t like the idea of 2 screens but what if it were possible to just have one screen that could jump between the two techs? That would pretty amazing and give BlackBerry devices insane battery life.

  • Polinompol

    I hope the money from the company would not support dirty Russian politics.
    Device it self looks interesting.