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Google set to take on Apple in China

06 августа 2009

Google is set to go head-to-head with Apple in China as the country’s largest mobile operator prepares to launch a range of customised smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system.

China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, will fire the opening shot in a battle for high-value subscribers with the launch of the 3G OPhone, which runs the Android source code.

China is the world’s largest mobile phone market with 700m subscribers but has only recently launched third generation services, which offer broadband-speed data connections.

The launch of the OPhone by China Mobile comes as smaller rival China Unicom is nearing an exclusive agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in China for three years. A deal with Apple would give China Unicom a powerful tool to poach young mobile users from the market leader.

The OPhone, the first of China Mobile’s 3G smartphones, is made by Lenovo Mobile . The OPhone could launch as early as next week provided the marketing is ready, sources close to Lenovo Mobile said.

China Mobile will also launch a version of HTC’s Android-based Magic smartphone simultaneously. The device will trade under the Dopod brand used by Taiwan’s HTC in China, industry sources said. China Mobile declined to comment.

Apple held talks with China Mobile about potential iPhone distribution in the past, but the two could not agree on how to share revenues.

Smartphone penetration in China is running at 10 per cent of all handsets sold. But the devices are expected to generate higher revenues as subscribers access features such as music and games downloads.

China Unicom, the country’s second wireless operator, last week denied Chinese media reports that it had sealed a deal with Apple, but said there had been progress in the talks. Unicom is expected to offer the device when it launches its country-wide 3G services in September or October.

The uptake of Android-based handsets in other more developed 3G markets has been muted so far. But signs from the US, the launch market for the first Android-based mobile, the G1, suggest demand has improved. T-Mobile USA reported it had sold “over 1m” G1 handsets in the US in the first six months after its launch last year. This compares to about 1.75m of the original iPhones sold by AT&T in the six months after launch in mid-2007.

In total Apple has sold about 21.2m iPhones worldwide up to the end of March this year.

According to industry sources, China Mobile is expected to offer a subsidy of up to Rmb2,000 on the OPhone, almost half the price of the device, to its pre-paid and contract customers.


Источник: Financial Times

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