Russia and Ukraine, if you haven’t been paying attention over the past year, are in the middle of a substantial disagreement. This has had a considerable effect on the economy of the former Soviet Union. Not so much the country’s earning potential – that seems to be going better than expected (although it could and probably will shall change). But thanks to various sanctions, several international brands and services are no longer available in the country.
Those sanctions mean that companies like Samsung and Apple have left the country. So is Intel, LG, Microsoft, Netflix and many others. Heck, even McDonalds jumped ship. Russia responded by immediately cloning it under a new brand. Something similar seems to be in store for Android devices.
Made in Russia
A report of Wired claims that Russia, through the country’s National Computer Corporation (NCC), is in the market for a homemade Android device. The NCC is also very ambitious. The company hopes to have sold 100,000 smartphones and tablets by the end of this year. That’s a huge ask for a product that has yet to be revealed or even named as of March 2023.
Alexander Kalinin, the head of the NCC, hopes his company’s still-incubating device will capture 10% of the country’s smartphone market by 2026. But, as is the case with Huawei and smartphone hardware, Russia may have problems making and selling Android devices.
First, there’s the fact that China’s smartphones are much more affordable than anything the former Soviet Union is likely to make (unless it simply buys some white-label phones and renames them). There is also the possibility that Google will limit the use of Android in the country. That’s not a problem at the moment, but the latest round of sanctions against the country has banned the export of smartphones (and electronics in general) that cost more than around R5,500 to the country. It is not excluded that Google will extend the limits it has already imposed on Russia.
There are already at least two Russian smartphone brands in the country — Yotaphone and Smartekosistema — but these companies struggle with China’s superior supply chain and pricing. There’s a very deliberate reason that just about everything is made in China. It would be a bit like a South African company trying to compete with Samsung while buying its components from the same places Samsung does. The larger company has a significant manufacturing advantage. Still, that doesn’t seem to weigh heavily on the National Computer Corporation. It hopes to price its smartphones between around R2,500 and R7,500 when they eventually launch.