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Yandex, the Google of Russia, is launching its first smartphone

Yandex smartphone

The search company known as the Google of Russia already does a lot of things to which you can make comparisons with similar services and product offerings from US tech giants. There’s search, a la Google. The company also has its hands in self-driving cars, smart speakers, an Amazon Prime-esque membership service — and now the company wants to get into smartphones. Which is the reason for today’s announcement introducing the … drumroll … Yandex Phone.

Straight and to the point, it would seem, judging from the name. Among the features it includes are the company’s own software as well as its digital assistant Alice. In a press release, the company touts that it’s also the first phone to come preinstalled with a suite of mobile services from the Yandex ecosystem — if that, you know, gets any of you off the fence and saying ‘da’ to this handset.

From the company’s announcement: “Yandex’s smartphone uses AI to deliver a highly personalized mobile experience based on the users’ location, routine, and their usage pattern. In the morning, for example, Yandex.Phone can provide traffic updates for the daily commute along with turn-by-turn navigation from Yandex.Maps, suggest a personalized Yandex.Music playlist for the journey, or send forecast updates from Yandex.Weather.

“While mobile users have been able to utilize Alice for Yandex services on other devices, Yandex.Phone is the first smartphone in Russia in which the AI assistant can be used across the majority of apps and services. Regardless of what they’re doing on the phone, users can have Alice manage everyday tasks for them.”

Examples include using Alice to add a calendar event listing or relying on Alice to respond to voice prompts. Yandex.Phone users will also have access to more than 34,000 existing Alice “skills” to help with tasks like ordering food, scheduling flights, and calling a taxi. The assistant will also place voice calls for Yandex Phone users, and already, the company adds, third-party developers have created thousands of skills for Alice, and more are being added every day.

The specs are pretty basic. You’ll get a 5.65-inch screen, 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. It runs Android 8.1 and costs the equivalent of $270. The company’s flagship store in Moscow will begin selling them at the end of the week, but it’s a fair bet you probably won’t see them stateside anytime soon.

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.