According to representatives from China Mobile, Motorola will release up to eight handsets for the largest mobile operator in the world in terms of subscribers. The OPhones will use a customized version of Android called Open Mobile System, which will feature carrier-branded applications and interfaces. The carrier is hoping these devices will get subscribers to upgrade their handsets for devices capable of utilizing China Mobile's burgeoning 3G network.
Motorola's handset division has lost billions over the last few years, and the company would have spun it off into a separate company, but the global financial crisis delayed this action. The fourth-largest handset maker is unlikely to replicate the success it had with the Razr handset, and it is seeing increased competition from the likes of Apple, Nokia, and Research In Motion at the high-end of the market.
The company brought in Sanjay Jha to head the cell phone unit, and he has made Motorola a big supporter of the Android operating system. With companies such as HTC, Sony Ericsson, Garmin-Asus, and Samsung also expected to have Android phones, Motorola is working with developers to build custom applications to help its handsets stand out from the crowd.
One example of this developer outreach can be found with the MotoBlur service, which will debut with the Android-powered Cliq. This service aggregates contact information from various destinations like Facebook, Outlook, and Gmail, and it can display this information via home-screen widgets. The service is embedded in the OS itself, and it will reside on Motorola servers so users can easily switch between capable devices.
The move also shows the growing importance of the Chinese market in the mobile industry, and the sheer number of potential subscribers means it will continue to be a target for handset makers. China Mobile's subscriber base far surpasses the combined users of Verizon Wireless and AT&T, and there's still plenty of room for growth. Companies such as Dell, HTC, Lenovo, Samsung, and LG Electronics have also committed to bringing out OPhones over the next few years, and Apple also recently inked a deal to bring the iPhone to China.
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