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Move over Apple? Russian firm crosses iPhone with Kindle

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 | 6:37 AM ET
Dual-screen smartphone out soon: CEO
YotaPhone CEO Vlad Martynov introduces the Yotaphone smartphone, which is a "typical Android" phone—but with two screens.

Yota, a relatively unknown device maker from Russia is on the verge of releasing the Yota Phone.

The device has two screens, allowing users to have both a conventional smartphone and an e-reader on one piece of hardware.

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Its main screen is a "typical Android" smartphone, but users can turn the device over for a secondary screen electronic paper display - similar to that found on an Amazon Kindle - that consumes around five times less battery than the smartphone screen.

This screen is always on, making the device more intuitive, and simple to use, Yota CEO Vlad Martynov told CNBC Wednesday.

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But the second screen is not just an e-reader, Martynov said. It also allows users to view notifications such as SMS messages. It can even display a Twitter feed or a Facebook feed which updates in real-time, he said.

Yota Phone will be rolled out in a "select few" European countries towards the end of this year and will be globally available sometime in 2014. Martynov said the price will be similar to that of other premium smartphone brands.

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Some analysts have dismissed the device as a "gimmick", whilst Ian Fogg, head of mobile at research firm IHS Global Insight, told CNBC that the firm's biggest challenge is being able to survive in hugely competitive market.

"There are real uses for a screen that uses virtually no power and can display content in bright sunlight including practical scenarios such as showing a map," he said. "Yota however are a relatively small company compared with the established global smartphone makers...to break into the smartphone market Yota need to create scale quickly for example by working with a larger partner company."

Francisco Jeronimo, research director for analysis firm IDC, believes a niche product like this could sell in some markets for around $200 but pricing the device at the high end will give it little chance of success.

"It may sell a few thousand units in Eastern Europe but it would never get support from operators in the Western world," he told CNBC. The additional screen will still use up battery and will be too small for reading, he said, adding that applications for screen could be few and far between.

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

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