Sunday, May 26, 2024

YotaPhone smartphone resurrected in latest twist in Trump-Russia saga


You’re forgiven if you’ve not been able to keep up with ever twist and turn in the investigation into the investigation of the 2016 presidential election. For one, it’s not something we’d typically cover here at Digital Trends. Then there’s the fact that the investigation into the investigation (which means the Mueller investigation) has taken longer than the original investigation did in the first place.

Told you there was a reason why we haven’t covered it. But a new New York Times scoop by Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman gives us the opportunity to drag up an old gem: Yotaphone.

First, context for our writing anything about this: The investigation into the investigation has resulted in two indictments, the second of which revolves around the theory that there was some secret communications line between the Trump Organization and the Russia-controlled Alfa Bank. The FBI (and most everyone else) briefly looked at that theory and quickly discarded it, and life went on.

But two paragraphs in the latest NYT story give us a blast from the past:

Their other set of concerns centered on data suggesting that a YotaPhone — a Russian-made smartphone rarely seen in the United States — had been used from networks serving the White House, Trump Tower, and Spectrum Health, a Michigan hospital company whose server had also interacted with the Trump server.

Mr. Sussmann relayed their YotaPhone findings to counterintelligence officials at the C.I.A. in February 2017, the people said. It is not clear whether the government ever investigated them.

Michael Sussmann is a lawyer who brought concerns about Alfa Bank to the FBI and ultimately was indicted by former U.S. Attorney John Durham, who’s leading the investigation into the investigation. But that’s not what’s important for our purposes here.

What is important is the YotaPhone. There’s a name we haven’t heard in years. And while the NYT’s story doesn’t specify which version of the YotaPhone is in play here, the story of the phone itself goes back nearly a decade.

The original YotaPhone was a dual-screen Android device back in the heyday of Android. It was a time in which manufacturers were still trying anything and everything, and here comes this company with an Android 4.2 Jelly Bean phone that had a relatively normal (if not downright quaint by today’s standards) 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen at 720p resolution. But flip the phone over, and you’d find a 4.3-inch e-ink display — the kind you’d find in an Amazon Kindle. That sort of made the YotaPhone the mullet of smartphones. Business on one side, party on the other.

We’ll let you decide which was which.

The original YotaPhone only went on sale in a few countries — Austria, France, Spain, Germany, and, of course, Russia. Fast forward a couple years, and we get the YotaPhone 2. It was more sleek and still sported that dual-screen design. And this time it was going to come to T-Mobile in the United States via Indiegogo. Until it wasn’t.

Suffice to say, the YotaPhone 2 didn’t do much to shake up the smartphone world. And the even larger YotaPhone 3 never made it this way either.

And it definitely wasn’t a phone we expected to see ever again.

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