FRANKFURT/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Yota Devices, the maker of a novel, dual-screen smartphone which has so far proved a flop with consumers, said on Tuesday it has reached a deal to market its new phones with a major Chinese electronics distributor, state-backed Potevio Co.[CNPUTA.UL]
Moscow-based Yota said Potevio plans to begin sales across China of its latest YotaPhone2 models this quarter. Potevio sold 36 million phones last year for an annual turnover of 46 billion yuan (£4.8 billion), according to the company.
The joint statement by Yota and Potevio said the contract was one of the largest deals ever between a Russian high-technology equipment supplier and a Chinese electronics maker. However, the release provided no figures and executives of the companies were not immediately available to provide details.
YotaPhone boasts two screens, one of which is always turned on to show streams of social media, text messages, maps, weather and breaking news and is meant to work as a kind of mini e-book reader.
Under the deal with Potevio, the YotaPhone2 will come equipped with a range of popular local Chinese applications, adapted for the phone’s always-on screen, Yota Devices said.
YotaPhone’s black-and-white display is designed to conserve battery life. The second screen, a liquid crystal display, is used for calls and other common phone functions.
The Russian electronics maker said it has built a localised version of its YotaPhone2 that is designed to run on Chinese frequencies of fast mobile broadband networks running LTE.
Yota has enjoyed the high-profile backing of President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Putin was photographed handing a YotaPhone to Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping on his November trip to China.
Technology market research firm IDC data shows Yota shipped only 109,000 of its phones in the five quarters ending in December of 2014. Fifty-five percent of the units shipped went to Russia, and another 26 percent to Central and Eastern Europe, with only small shipments in Western Europe and elsewhere.
“The problem with Yota is that it looks like an interesting concept,” IDC mobile analyst Francisco Jeronimo said of the dual-screen. “But when we started playing around with the latest model, we asked ourselves whether we really needed two screens.”
Yota is 25.1 percent-owned by Russian state conglomerate Rostec, while Telconet Capital has a 74.9 pct stake, according to ownership data from last year.
Editing by Harro Ten Wolde; editing by Susan Thomas