Yandex Reveals Long-awaited Smartphone

Russian internet giant Yandex on Wednesday launched its first ever smartphone in a highly anticipated move into hardware that builds on its popular service apps, Kommersant reports.

The new smartphone, called Yandex.Phone, will go on sale on Thursday in Russia and online. It will cost 17,990 rubles ($269/237 euros) — less than similar phones from competitors Apple and Samsung — and will work with the Android system. While the design was created by Yandex, the phone is made in China.

Yandex’s various apps for payment, music, maps, taxi and food are pre-installed on the phone, which will also use a smart speaker called Alice (Alisa in Russian), which uses artificial intelligence and is similar to Amazon’s Alexa.

“We built Yandex.Phone to offer Russian users a smartphone that is equipped with all the localised tools that help users better navigate their daily routines,” Yandex official Fyodor Yezhov said. “Within the smartphone, the Yandex apps are presented in the form of an ecosystem with Alice at its centre. It’s not necessary to open individual apps to solve a task — just ask Alice.”

The phone signals a major new phase in Yandex’s development and is designed to compete in Russia with giants like Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Yandex started in the 1990s as a search engine similar to Google but has expanded into every corner of the Russian internet. The smartphone’s launch comes after the company last month disappointed tech enthusiasts by summoning journalists to what turned out to be a presentation not of the smartphone but of its smart speaker.