Yota Turns to Indiegogo for Help Selling Its New YotaPhone 2

The crowdfunding campaign is helping YotaPhone raise money that it needs to pay regulatory fees and boost production to get the smartphone to the U.S.

YotaPhone 2, Android, smartphones, Indiegogo

Russian smartphone company Yota has so far raised more than $164,830 by accepting preorders for its upcoming innovative, dual-screen YotaPhone 2 smartphone, which will be available to U.S. buyers later this summer.

The money is being raised through the crowdfunding Website Indiegogo, which so far has more than tripled the $50,000 goal that was set by the site when the fundraising campaign began on May 19.

The campaign was started to help the small company get its latest product into the U.S. market faster than the normal channels, which require 18- to 24-month lead times for major mobile carriers to review and test new devices before offering them to consumers through their retail outlets, Matthew G. Kelly, the managing director for the Americas and head of global alliances for Yota Devices, told eWEEK.

"The device is ready to go," said Kelly. "We need to get the funding to pay for regulatory fees and those kinds of things to get the device launched in North America."

In addition, a lot of the reason for the Indiegogo campaign comes from being a startup, he said. "You have the big guys out there and the little guys like us." And the big guys can take too much time to set a launch date, which isn't time that Yota Devices wants to waste, he said.

The latest innovative, dual-display YotaPhone 2 smartphone was launched in December 2014 in Russia and parts of Europe and the Middle East, according to an earlier eWEEK report. It has a smartphone screen on one side and an e-reader screen on the other side. Now the Android phone will be coming to the United States and North America as part of the Indiegogo campaign.

"The YotaPhone 2 has been out in the market and we needed to get it out quickly" elsewhere, said Kelly. "From a timing perspective, it just didn't work" to wait for traditional mobile carrier rollouts.

Thousands of potential customers signed up for preorders before the Indiegogo campaign even kicked off on May 19 as they jockeyed for early-bird $500 pricing that was being offered to the first 100 backers, said Kelly. That price was $100 off the normal $600 price for the phone. Later Indiegogo backers were able to save $50 and reserve one for $550. The phones are being offered in black or white.

The YotaPhone 2 devices are scheduled to ship to U.S. customers in late July or early August. They are unlocked GSM devices that will work on networks from AT&T and T-Mobile.

The latest device gets a larger 5-inch, 1080p AMOLED front display and a larger 4.7-inch always-on E-Ink rear display, replacing the smaller 4.3-inch front and back screens that were found on the original YotaPhone that debuted in December 2013, according to an earlier eWEEK report on the original phone. The new handset measures 5.7 inches long, 2.73 inches wide and 0.35 inches thick.

The unlocked YotaPhone 2 will include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 2,500mAh battery and 32GB of internal storage. The smartphone's rear main camera is an 8MP auto-focus model with LED flash, while the front camera is a 2.1MP unit. Both the front and back displays are covered in strong Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for impact resistance. The devices also include a built-in accelerometer, a compass, a gyroscope, a proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth, near-field communication (NFC) capabilities and wireless charging features. In addition, users can turn the YotaPhone 2's main display screen into a "living Instagram cover" using the included YotaCover feature, which automatically changes screen images for users.

Several features make the YotaPhone 2 unique compared with any other smartphone on the market today, including its double-sided capacitive touch screens and its claimed 100-hour battery life for e-reader users and two days of basic phone usage.

The devices, at least in Europe, the Middle East and Russia where they are sold today, also include 24/7 technical support and help through a call-in hotline, while owners who have a problem with their phones can get a courtesy loaner phone if their device needs to be returned for service, according to Yota.

Yota phones were first sold in the marketplace in 2009, according to the company.

The YotaPhone 2 handset will enter a very crowded U.S. smartphone market that features some heavy hitters including the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, as well as some upcoming new devices such as the LG G4, the flagship smartphone from LG. New competition is also coming to the U.S. from companies like Acer, which is launching its new $79 Liquid M220 Windows smartphone in June, to be followed later in the year by a business-aimed Liquid X2 phone that will feature three SIM slots for global travelers, according to a recent eWEEK report.