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China Mobile in handset milestone

27 мая 2009

Google’s Android mobile phone operating system is set to make its legal debut in China in June when China Mobile launches specially adapted handsets.

The Taiwan-based handset manufacturer HTC said China Mobile would start selling a customised version of the HTC Magic, a handset based on Google’s Android operating system, through its stores.

Analysts believe that a successful launch of a high-end handset for China Mobile subscribers could help remove hurdles to the entry of similar handsets such as Apple’s iPhone into the country, the world’s largest mobile market.

Apple has negotiated for months with China Unicom, China Mobile’s smaller rival, to introduce the iPhone to China, but industry executives say regulators have sought to hold back an agreement until China Mobile has a device that will allow it to compete for 3G customers. Android-based handsets and iPhones have long been available in China through “grey imports” – consumers can buy the G1, a phone custom-made for Deutsche Telekom by HTC, and the iPhone in any electronics retail chain.

But none of these sales are strictly legal as China bans WiFi handsets from its market unless they are also compatible with WAPI, a local wireless standard. Also, consumers cannot get these handsets directly through their mobile operators, and the operators cannot subsidise them.

The Chinese government hopes to balance the big three mobile operators – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – against each other as they roll out 3G services following the issue of licences in January.

Although China Mobile dominates the market with its 483m subscribers, it has lagged behind its competitors in picking up new users in recent months. That is partly because it must use TD-SCDMA, a homegrown 3G technology, while China Unicom and China Telecom were awarded licences under WCDMA and CDMA2000, the standards used in European and US markets.

The Android handset made by HTC will bypass that problem as it will operate with Edge, a technology that allows consumers to use most of the functions available under 3G.

HTC said the Android handset’s retail price is expected to be set at about Rmb5,000 ($733) – more than 20 per cent more than the price the G1 sells in the grey market now and about 10 per cent more than the grey market price of the iPhone.

HTC also intends to provide China Mobile with a customised 3G handset for TD-SCDMA, but the company did not give a timetable for that project.

Lenovo Mobile, a handset maker spun off from the computer company, is also working on a TD-SCDMA Android handset for China Mobile.


Источник: Financial Times

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