Android Invasion Of China


Google’s mobile platform, Android, has had a bit of a slow start, but 2010 is shaping up to be the year that Google’s OS will appear on well over a dozen new handsets.

In China, with its plethora of small and fast-acting electronics firms, Android is getting a boost by being adopted by a lot of brands that you’ve likely not heard of before. Indeed, several of these brands have never even made a mobile phone before–but it seems that hardware is easy to put together, and can be rendered very appealing by free, open, and good-looking software, as Android undoubtedly is. (That’s all got to be heart-breaking news for Nokia. Anyhoooo…).

Here’s a look at four Android mobiles that I reckon will make an impact in China later this year and throughout 2010. Three are by Chinese manufacturers, while one is very much a Chinese project though it’s made by Dell.

First up: Huawei, with its U8230. Looking a bit too reminiscent of the HTC G2 and G3 with its fiddly trackball, Huawei is now slowly graduating from being a shady maker of “shanzai” (fake/close replica) devices to a pukka player. The U8230 is slated for launch in some European markets and China “by the end of Q3”, which is pretty much now, but there’s been no news update from Huawei yet.

The U8230 has a 3.5-inch HVGA touchscreen (capacitive or resistive; that has not been disclosed), a 3.2-megapixel main camera and a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera, WCDMA/HSDPA/HSUPA 3G networking and GSM/GPRS/EDGE 2G networking support. It also supports China’s new WAPI wireless Internet standard, as well as regular Wi-Fi. It’s not known what (if any) “skin” Huawei will slap onto Android. In earlier snapshots (see below), it was running a very standard Android 1.5. To check out just the hardware, see this hands-on video by a CNET Asia colleague over on the Crave tech blog.

Secondly, the Access Cphone. Someone at Access decided to make Android more friendly and familiar to local users with a very cartoonish UI skin which, perhaps only in my opinion, makes Android look like some old, slap-dash Samsung affair, and totally puts me off. (A Chinese Web site has a hands-on video of the phone and UI). No specifications yet–aside from a 3.5-inch screen, which seems to be de rigeur on smartphones these days–and no launch date set either.

The Cphone has been commissioned by China Telecom–ordinarily a landline company and ISP–to take on Apple’s iPhone, which is soon heading to China Unicom, as well as to take on China Mobile’s upcoming “Ophone”. Pictured below is the Cphone:

So, having just mentioned the Ophone, let’s take a look at that. Actually, the phone got a name change when it transitioned from concept to reality, and is now the Dell “Mini 3i”. It’s being made by Dell, not some tiny Chinese manufacturer, and has been commissioned by China’s biggest mobile network, China Mobile, so this is intended as a big-hitter; think of it as a smartphone for the people, which China Mobile hopes will sink China Unicom’s pricier iPhone (whenever it actually gets launched).

The Dell Mini 3i will have a heavily-modified version of Android that China Mobile is clearly intending to keep going pretty much as its own flagship smartphone OS. All we know of the Dell’s specs so far is–you guessed it–a 3.5-inch screen, which is thankfully capacitive (like the iPhone’s), and a 3-megapixel camera on the rear. What you won’t get is 3G or Wi-Fi. This may prove to be a deal-breaker for many. Restrictions on Wi-Fi are normal in China (it’s been a stumbling block between Apple and the Chinese government, apparently), but no 3G is plain bizarre in the year in which China is rolling out 3G and pushing the notion of a “3G Lifestyle” on continual TV ads. Here’s what it looks like:

Last up is a good-looking newcomer, the “Blue Magic” by RAmos. This company is generating quite a buzz this month with its touchscreen Android tablets, and they’ll be hoping to rumble the tech blogs once again in 2010 when the Blue Magic is launched. So far RAmos has only a mock-up of its hardware, and no specs yet.

But, by the time its first Android phone hits, I reckon RAmos will have made quite a name for itself with its tablets, and it’ll be a solid Android phone. I’m hoping for Wi-Fi and 3G, capacitive touchscreen, and some thoughtful touches such as elegant volume rockers on the side (as on the iPhone). Oh, and a change of name, please.

So, did any of these four handsets appeal to you? I’m not yet an Android user, but I’m window-shopping now, and likely to be rocking Android by 2010. I’m personally not too bothered who the hardware maker is, so long as it feels solid, and–quite importantly–so long as the maker has not uglified Android, which I think is elegant–if simple–as it is.

by Steven Millward, China

[via cnet Asia]

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