Mail.Ru Partners With Smartphone Maker Prestigio to Launch New Russian Smart Speaker
Russian internet provider Mail.Ru has teamed up with smartphone maker Prestigio to release a new smart speaker. The Prestigio SmartVoice, called a ‘smart column’ by the Russian companies, is the second built with Mail.Ru’s Marusya voice assistant after the Capsule smart speaker, released earlier this year.
The SmartVoice comes in the semi-standard cylinder form, with buttons on top and a fabric-covered middle for the audio hardware and the Prestigio logo. As with the previous smart speaker, the SmartVoice lights up when Marusya is in use, and it can be used to make phone calls too via Russian social media giant VKontakte. The smart speaker comes with a three-month subscription to VK’s music service and can even play playlists made by friends on the social media network. There are a surprising number of color options for the smart speaker, too, with gray and white options out now and blue and red coming in December.
Marusya is largely the same in the new speaker as the Capsule, with information, games, and other voice apps. The voice assistant is notable for having many child-focused options, including telling fairy tales and teaching math and English. The voice assistant can also connect to mobile apps on iOS and Android smartphones, along with smart home devices, though presumably, Prestigio hopes users will use its own phones in particular. The SmartVoice costs 3,990 rubles or about $52, half the price of the Capsule, which is sold for 7,990 rubles, approximately $110.
Russian to Speak
Mail.Ru claimed its first smart speaker had thousands of pre-sales before it started shipping. Interest in that market is probably why Prestigio wanted to partner with the company. The expansion into entry-level smart speakers makes sense in the context of Russia’s smart speaker marker. Yandex, probably the biggest competitor for the devices in Russia, already offers an entry-level and mid-range Yandex.Station smart speaker for around the same prices. There are other competitors in Russia as well, like Tinkoff and the Oleg voice assistant, but with 45 million monthly users of Russian smart speakers to woo, new and less expensive smart speakers may help Mail.Ru get ahead. However, the new partnership combines two of the largest Russian tech companies, which could help make up for Yandex being ahead in releasing its products and garnering new users of its Alice voice assistant. That said, Yandex is not resting on its laurels with Alice. The company struck a deal with Chinese tech giant Huawei to run Huawei’s Celia voice assistant in Russia with support from Alice, the end result of a long-rumored deal between the two companies that will help Huawei build its Russian services while bringing Yandex’s software to Huawei customers.