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8/31/2009
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China Mobile Intros 'Ophones'

The provider hopes smartphones from Dell, HTC, Lenovo, and others will help drive mobile data adoption in the world's biggest mobile market.

Days after rival China Unicom said it would offer Apple's iPhone, China Mobile showed off multiple "Ophones" from Dell, HTC, and Lenovo.

China Mobile has been tailoring the Google-backed Android operating system to craft its Open Mobile System OS for smartphones. These Ophones will carry China Mobile's branding, as well as carrier-specific applications that deliver news, e-mail, and other services. These smartphones are expected to help boost the adoption of China Mobile's 3G service, which will be using the home-grown TD-SCDMA standard.

The Lenovo Mobile O1 will be the first Ophone to support 3G, and it will be available next month. With a large touch screen, the handset's design and user interface are similar to the iPhone. Dell's device also has a large touch screen, but it only has 2G capabilities. Dell maintains that its mobile computing devices are just a proof of concept, but it is widely expected to release a smartphone called the Mini3i later this year.

HTC will also be bringing its Magic smartphone to China Mobile with the carrier's specific OS. The touch-screen smartphone has multiple high-end features like 3G, GPS, Bluetooth, and a 3.2-megapixel camera, but it likely won't have Wi-Fi, to comply with government regulations.

China is becoming increasingly important in the mobile industry due to the number of potential subscribers. China Mobile alone has about 500 million subscribers, which is more than the entire population of the United States and Japan combined. China Unicom is the country's second-largest wireless operator with more than 125 million subscribers, and this is far larger than the subscriber base of AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

Multiple handset makers are lining up to capitalize on this huge potential audience, as China Mobile said it eventually expects Ophones from companies like Phillips, ZTE, Samsung, Motorola, and LG Electronics.


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