Yandex repurposes Android for massive Russian smartphone market

19 Feb 2014

In a move that may not please Google, Russian search engine Yandex has created its own mobile firmware based on Android that connects users with Yandex apps and services.

As everybody knows, the reason Google released Android as a free, open-source OS was to ensure a vast ecosystem for its ads, apps and services.

The ploy paid off and today more than 80pc of the world’s smartphones run on Android.

Just ahead of the pivotal Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Yandex this morning revealed its Yandex.Kit, which includes the full stack of basic apps and services for mobile vendors to install on their devices right in the factories before shipping to Russia.

The firmware includes Yandex Search, webmail app Yandex.Mail, mapping via Yandex.Maps, a 3D launcher based on Yandex.Shell, as well as a mobile browser and Yandex.Store, an app store with 100,000 apps.

A Yandex spokesperson said: “We added some uniqueness into each part of the mobile ecosystem, like the dialler, which uses information from Yandex’s Business Directory to identify a caller’s number even if they aren’t one of the user’s contacts (yeah, we know some other Android firmware suppliers have announced it, as well, but we have patented this feature).

“The best part of Yandex.Kit is that there are no fees. Yandex.Kit is distributed on a fee-free basis and performs well on virtually any hardware, including the not-so-powerful devices popular in Russia and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years