27 February 2013, 17:46

YotaPhone comes to MWC

YotaPhone comes to MWC
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If you're a tech-head, you probably know that right now Barcelona is the place to be when it comes to mobile technology - it's time of the World Mobile Congress 2013. So far, there haven't been any revelations, really. I mean, it's pretty much all the same these days.

If you're a tech-head, you probably know that right now Barcelona is the place to be when it comes to mobile technology - it's time of the World Mobile Congress 2013. So far, there haven't been any revelations, really. I mean, it's pretty much all the same these days. Every year major mobile powerhouses churn out more powerful phones and tablets with better battery life and higher pixel density. This holds for the high-end spectrum, of course. The low end is also traditional as always, dominated by Nokia and its virtually indestructible dumbphones. Where's the unexpected? Well, to be fair, mobile world today is not really the place to be daring - and probably reinventing gadgets should be left to Apple - after all, this company is responsible for the uniform technological world of rectangular slates we have on our hands. Regardless, there are a few companies who dare to 'think different' - usually, these are companies who have 'nothing to lose and everything to prove'. Take, for example, the Russian YotaPhone. That's right, a Russian phone - who would have thought? The company, previously known as one of the pioneers of WiMax connectivity in the country, has decided to go another way and introduce a solution which would allow to greatly extend battery life without sacrificing much. It's not a revolutionary battery, screen or piece of software. Actually, they've used technology which has existed for quite a while - but they combined it in a novel and surprisingly useful way - yup, pretty much what Apple does with their 'inventions'. If you kept your eye on the Consumer Electronics Expo in Vegas this year, you're already familiar with it - but for the rest, here' the deal: YotaPhone is a now-traditional Android slate with a twist - the backside houses a second screen which utilizes the e-Ink tech - the same thing use in low-power-consuming e-readers. Two screens on a phone - so what, it's been done! But it's how they've done is what deserves a second glance. The operating system has been modified to allow seamless integration. There are nifty tricks, like displaying "smile" on the back screen when the user takes a picture, but the real benefits become obvious when you start separating essential tasks. Specifically, the second screen is suited to display information which does not require the primary screen in all its colorful and power-hungry glory. This information includes e-books, messages, screenshots and photos of text and data, maps and notifications. Think about it - if you're walking around and need to find a particular house, a black-and-white map is more than enough. Why strain eyes and battery with a bright HD display reading a book when e-Ink does the job? Why check for emails and messages by turning the screen on, shaving off precious battery life, when a glimpse of an e-Ink screen can give you what you need to know? The thing about e-Ink displays, if you don't know, is that they only require power to change- and very little of it. This is what allows e-Ink devices such as e-Readers and the recent smartwatch Pebble to operate for several days on one charge. Despite a lot of those who had the chance to play around with the device agreeing the implementation is a bit underdeveloped, the phone has won the 2013 CES Award in the mobile category – so that should tell you something. At the same time, the reaction from the Russian expert community is not very thrilled – for instance, a well-known mobile expert Eldar Murtazin suggested the hype surrounding YotaPhone is only caused by lack of true innovation from industry leaders. Other high-profile bloggers generally have the same opinion – and frankly, this just looks like one of Russophobic stereotypes rearing its ugly head. But, again, as all stereotypes, this one is based on fact – in the last few years Russian companies were unable to produce quality high-tech gadgets. Who knows – maybe this will be the birth of a new era? The YotaPhone is scheduled for launch later this year – in February the company has announced its deal with Hi-P, a manufacturer from Singapore, who will be the one mass-producing these phones. According to Techcrunch, “the company is now hiring mainly sales and marketing staff for Asia and in the US to add to the 55 people it has in its headquarters in Russia, which take care of software development and design”. That means it’s likely the launch will not be limited to Russia, as speculated earlier and then when the final product does hit the shelves, the back screen will be fully utilized by the operating system– otherwise, why hire software developers, right?


Oh, hey, remember Gangnam Style by South Korean artist PSY? Of course you do. By now the original upload has over one billion three hundred sixty million views, leaving runner-ups in the dust. Anyway – not sure if you know that, but Gangnam is actually the name of a district of the South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Apparently the city decided to capitalize on the song making fun of the lavish lifestyle of the district’s residents. In the five minute “info-parody” instead of making fun of it, actors and tourists tell viewers what’s so great about the district. By the end of last year the video has been viewed a whopping 400,000 times – I mean, it’s a South Korean parody on Gangnam Style, how could it not become popular? According to local tour operators, there’s been an increased demand for Gangnam district tours and the official tourism agency of South Korea decided to launch context ads in search engine which pop up when people look for “Gangnam style”. You would think this would be enough, right? Wrong. Park Geun-hye assumed the post as the 11th president overall and the 1st woman president of South Korea on February 25th . The inauguration ceremony was… not something I would personally expect. Actually, if I did not know what was happening, I would think it was a party, not presidential inauguration – but I guess it’s becoming a tradition these days. You guessed it – after the formal part was over, the floor was given to PSY, who did what he does best – sang Gangnam style and even incited the audience of this historic event to do the silly “horse dance”. This is not the singer’s first brush with politics, either – last year he met with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, who called the Gangnam Style phenomenon a "force for world peace". And here’s more Gangnam Style trivia while we’re at it. You know these annoying ads that YouTube is riddled with? Well, according to TubeMogul, these ads, displayed during the official video and countless parodies, collectively gave the song’s copyright owner, PSY, over $870 thousand dollars – and these figures were gather last December, so by now I’m pretty sure it’s well over $900,000. And iTunes, even calculating the 30% cut going to Apple, gave the singer over 2 and a half million dollars. For one song. However, this is nothing compared to the estimated price of advertisement contracts signed by PSY for either personal appearances or the song which started it all – this is around 4 and a half million dollars. Apart from tourism, South Korea in general also benefitted from interest to k-pop (Korean pop music) – it is estimated this interest translated into over $13 million for the national music industry. And yet another interesting consequence of the viral video manifested itself in the… stock market. DI Corporation, owned by PSY’s father, was not doing so well – was is the key word. Once Gangnam Style started storming the internet, the company’s stock prices skyrocketed to 8 times their former price and by the end of 2012 DI Corporation increased their earnings five-fold. So, that’s what a billion views means.

Well, at least the clip is not banned here in Russia – if you recall, the IT watchdog Roskomnadzor recently banned another viral music video, “Dumb Ways to Die”, claiming it was encouraging kids to take their own lives. You know, despite it being a public service announcement which educated on the danger of trains. Oh well. By the way, another law in the ongoing series of legislation aimed to protect kids from harmful information has been signed by President Vladimir Putin. As I’ve mentioned, despite Roskomnadzor doing their best to clean out smut from Runet, there are still nasty things out there which are technically legal – and someone has to make sure kids don’t stumble upon it. At homes this is presumably the parents’ job, at schools kids are supervised by staff, so this leaves public Wi-Fi hotspots, which are plentiful here in Russia. Turns out that previously the bill suggested internet service providers would be required to ‘protect children’ – no one knows, how, exactly, so the law was finally revised to hold responsible ISP’s clients who share internet access. From now on small business owners will be fined 5 to 10 thousand rubles if kids see something they should not from their open Wi-Fi and companies will have to shell out 20 to 50 thousand rubles for the same transgression.

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