Vlad Martynov is not shy about putting forward the potential his smartphone innovation promises.

The Russian entrepreneur believes that just as the original iPhone heralded an era of all touchscreen smartphones, the Yotaphone will inspire the smartphone industry to adopt a new paradigm, the always-on display.

"For us, success will be, if in five years, all smartphones will have always on displays," he said.

That's not to say that in five years' time all smartphone sold will be Yotaphones. Martynov believes so strongly in his innovation, he thinks all other manufacturers will follow his lead and introduce similar dual-screen devices in the coming years.

Dual-screen iPhone 9

To back up this claim, he looked at how Apple revolutionised the industry in 2007.

"It is the same as with the iPhone," he said. "The iPhone first introduced completely new user experience and in the first six, nine, 10 months the industry was a little bit surprised, confused and a lot of people saying there is no way people will buy $500 smartphone without buttons and without stylus.

"In two or three years - and today - there is probably no single smartphone which doesn't look like the first iPhone."

So will the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 have an always-on display I ask? "Maybe iPhone 9," Martynov responds with a cheeky grin.


I met the difficult-to-pin-down entrepreneur at a hotel in Heathrow airport this week during a short stopover before he boarded his next flight to Germany, where Yota Devices has one of its six global offices which are spread across Europe, Asia and the United States.

YotaPhone Creator Vlad Martynov
Vlad Martynov, the founder of Yota Devices IBTimes UK

Martynov is currently involved in putting the finishing touches to YotaPhone 2, the evolution of the original ground-breaking device which was essentially just a prototype.

Using feedback received from users of the original device, Martynov and the engineers have created a much sleeker device which much more closely resembles what you would consider a typical smartphone.

At least on one side.

On the rear sits a 4.7in e-ink display which is always-on and which now offers a huge amount of customisation options, allowing you to receive the type of information you want, when you want it.

Fundamental changes

This is key to the success of YotaPhone. It is not a case of two screens are better than one, it is that you have access to the information you want at all times.

"The key thing is not two screens, the key thing is that one is always on. That is what fundamentally changes the user experience and makes it better for smartphone users. Instead of waking up the phone every five minutes, the phone proactively brings information you want to see, you need to see and makes you life and interactions much better."

Martynov began his IT career in the wake of the break up of the Soviet Union when he was employed by Price Waterhouse to sell computer software programs to the oil and gas industry.

From these humble beginnings Marynov created his own software company - ERP Software - which from 1997 to 2001 grew into a $20m (£11.8m) business, before being purchased by Navision which was subsequently bought by Microsoft.

Martynov was then tapped up by the software giant to head up its global independent software vendors strategy, becoming the youngest Russian to head one of Microsoft's global businesses.

Shake-up the industry

Having spent time as CEO of Columbus IT Partners and as a investor in a number of startups, Martynov wanted to shake up the smartphone industry.

And so he created YotaPhone with the singular vision of redefining how we use our smartphones.

The way we use smartphones today "drive bad habits" as the information we need is hidden behind a black screen when the phone is in sleep mode. "What we usually do is open the phone, open the application, go through a lot of data, before we find what is important to us," Martynov says.

Five minutes later, the fear we may be missing out on some spectacularly funny tweet or vital email means we repeat the whole process over again.

"Every time we do this, the people around us, they lose us because we are not focused on the conversation - and that's not good. That is not the way we communicated before smartphones."

All the information, all the time

The solution Martynov and Yota Device have come up with is to make that information available at all times.

YotaPhone 2 vs YotaPhone 1
The original YotaPhone (left) alongside the YotaPhone 2 which will launch later this year IBTimes UK

While the original YotaPhone did go on sale to the public last year, it was essentially a prototype with Martynov happy to crowdsource ideas for the next device directly from customers.

The YotaPhone 2 is a much slicker product. It looks and feels like any other Android smartphone on the market, and aside from the big e-ink screen on the rear, will do pretty much everything a typical smartphone will do.

Your typical smartphone doesn't however have a secondary screen which is always-on, allowing you to quickly see and response to messages, emails and other alerts without having to turn on the phone.

The device Martynov showed me was clearly still a prototype with the interface periodically stalling and the e-ink screen not working quite as it should.


If you find the problem, and the pain, and you bring the solution to the consumer, they will decide and they will buy the product and they will change the market.

These glitches should be ironed out by the time the YotaPhone 2 launches towards the end of 2014 in Europe, and they will need to be as the phone is likely to be priced at the same level as phones such as the Galaxy S5, iPhone 6 and other premium smartphones.

However, just as Martynov is sure the dual-screen innovation is going to catch on across the industry, the enigmatic Russian believes his small company of 100 employees can take on - and beat - the big guns.

Along with being the only company to have a dual-screen smartphone, Martynov believes his company's flexibility and ability to innovate quickly will allow if compete agains the likes of Apple and Samsung.

More importantly however, Martynov points to the success of BlackBerry as an example of how an unknown which challenged the big brands and succeeded.

"If you find the problem, and the pain, and you bring the solution to the consumer, they will decide and they will buy the product and they will change the market."

Always-on everywhere

Martynov believes that all gadgets in the future will feature always-on displays, not just smartphones. He says devices should work for the user and not the other way around.

"It's like having your assistant, a secretary, who is always sleeping and you have to wake up before they help you."

Smartphones today are hugely more advanced than the original iPhone. They are bigger, faster, lighter and have millions of apps available for them - but we still interact with them in just the same way.

Martynov says we have been brainwashed by major company's into believing that "bigger, faster, brighter" phones are in some way new, and are what we need.

YotaPhone and Martynov plan to change all that, by revolutionising the smartphone industry and intrinsically changing the way the world interacts and communicates in the digital age.