Hong Kong-based REX Global Entertainment Holdings has bought a 65% stake in the maker of the double-screened 'Russian iPhone', Yota Devices, for $100mn, the company's CEO Vladislav Martynov said on October 21.
Martynov said that REX Global could inject $50mn to fund the third-generation Yota phone, and their knowledge of the Chinese market could boost sales there. The remaining shares in Yota are owned by Rostec, a Russian state-owned defence and technology agency (25.1%), and managers including Martynov (10%).
The YotaPhone, featuring an LCD screen on one side and an e-ink 'paper' screen on the other, was Russia's first contender on the global smartphone market.
As the Russian government steps up its import substitution drive because of tensions with the West, the design received strong backing from state officials also concerned with intelligence threats posed by Western technology.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was an early YotaPhone adopter, and President Vladimir Putin gave one to Chinese Xi Jinping at their 2014 meeting in Berlin. Chechen leader and active Intstagram user Ramzan Kadyrov was also one of the promoters of Yota.
"Do not buy an iPhone," Kadyrov wrote on Instagram. "Patriotism and love for your country come through deeds."
The second generation of the phone was launched in 2014 in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and costs around $500. Its main difference from the previous model is that its second screen is touch-sensitive, can send text messages, respond to calls and perform other basic operations.
Among the innovations considered for the still unreleased YotaPhone 3 design, the company is considering a battery that will charge from solar light, with sensors stuck to the screen. Another idea is to use the glass of the screens as sound speakers.