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Google is by far the most popular search engine in most countries, but Russia is one of the rare exceptions. There, the home-grown Yandex platform beasts Google by a wide margin. The two companies have clashed over Google’s control of Android, and now Yandex is taking advantage of Russia’s favorable regulatory conditions to launch its own Android phone. The Yandex.Phone is a midrange device, but it looks like a good deal for Russian buyers.

The first phone from Yandex relies heavily on the company’s own products. That’s probably not a surprise, but the way they’re presented wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. In 2015, Yandex filed a complaint with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service, alleging that Google’s Android license was anti-competitive. In 2017, the government (predictably) sided with Yandex. Google had to modify its Russian license terms to allow OEMs to pre-load default apps and services other than Google’s while still retaining access to the Play Store.

That brings us to the Yandex.Phone, which runs all searches through Yandex instead of Google. Users will be able to switch to Google if they want, but Yandex is already more popular in the country. The device will also feature the debut of Yandex’s “Alice” voice assistant, a competitor to Google Assistant.

Yandex says that Alice has more than 34,000 localized skills to help you order food, get directions, place calls, and book a flight. Google Assistant is at the top of the AI heap in English, but it has issues in some languages, including Russian. A fully localized alternative could do well, especially if it’s built into the core of a phone like this one. Users will also get Yandex’s browser, mail, music, maps, and other apps. The usual suite of Google apps is included as well, but Yandex’s intentions are clear.


On the hardware side, the Yandex.Phone looks like a capable device. It will run on the Snapdragon 630 SoC with a 5.65-inch 2160 x 1080 display. It has dual rear cameras (16+5MP) and a 5MP front camera. Unfortunately, it runs on Android 8.1 Oreo instead of the latest Android Pie. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone as well.

The Yandex.Phone launches in Russia today for 17,990 rubles (about $270). That price includes a six-month subscription to Yandex.Plus for free music streaming and discounted taxi rides and mobile purchases.

Now read: Report: Samsung Planning 10th Anniversary Galaxy With 6.7-inch Screen, 5GSamsung Unveils Flexible Display That Will Launch in 2019, and New Android-Powered Mirrorless Camera Uses Canon Lenses



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