OPhone versus iPhone: Chinese 3G stand-off begins
Published: 1 September, 2009
The smartphone stand-off is about to begin in China, as the three cellcos expand their 3G networks and start to shift the early laptop emphasis to handsets, as more models appear for their networks. In the same week, China Mobile showed off its long awaited OPhone, the first device with its own Android-based operating system, user interface and store; while rival China Unicom finally signed its three-year distribution pact for the iPhone, a deal on which Mobile passed earlier in the year.
The main sticking point for Mobile was said to be Apple's insistence on its own brand and app store taking precedence over the cellco's user experience - China's largest cellco sees the creation of a highly differentiated, operator specific software platform as its main weapon to stay ahead of its rivals, despite being burdened with the single-carrier TD-SCDMA network and ecosystem.
CEO Wang Jianzhou told a press conference yesterday that more than 20 vendors, including Lenovo, Dell, LG, Dopod, Philips and Hisense, were working on OPhone notebooks, netbooks and phones. Handsets from Dell, Dopod (part of HTC) and Lenovo were on display and will be available commercially "straightaway". He described OPhone as the "world's first operator developed" smartphone OS and said he was aiming for a target price of RMB1,000 ($146) for TD-SCDMA handsets.
The initial devices are not quite hitting that price spot, with the Dopod A6188, a reworked version of the Magic from parent company HTC, priced at $730. The Lenovo Mobile O1 resembles the iPhone and displays apps in rows of colored squares rather like the Apple interface. The Dell OPhone prototype had a similar display layout with 3.5-inch touchscreen and China Mobile's own instant messaging, email and search - but without 3G support at this stage.
China Mobile also made a software developers' kit (SDK) available, and will soon open its own OPhone store too. It says the platform is geared to making it easier to vendors to design phones for TD-SCDMA - the carrier has repeatedly complained of the limited choice of phones for its platform, compared to its rivals' more widely used W-CDMA and CDMA2000, and is plowing considerable funds in to co-developments to encourage suppliers. As well as OPhone, its store will contain apps for Symbian and Mobile is working closely with Nokia. While the Finn will not support the Android-based OS, other majors like Motorola and LG are said to be developing OPhones.
Meanwhile, CDMA operator China Telecom is said to be in talks for its own smartphone exclusives, with the RIM Storm and Palm Pre possibly in the frame. And W-CDMA carrier Unicom has netted the iPhone, though its deal does not include revenue sharing, but is a straight exclusive wholesale agreement. Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing said the operator will offer two versions of the 3G iPhone in the fourth quarter, at a subsidized price yet to be announced.
Pages: 1 | 2