China Mobile is set to launch two touchscreen smartphones that will use a customised version of Google's Android platform to outfox its competitor's move to introduce the iPhone later this year
According to the Financial Times, it is only a matter of days before China Mobile, the world's largest mobile phone network by subscribers and the second by revenue behind Vodafone, unveils a pair of smartphones.
The first one is made by HTC and thought to be the Magic - which is already available in UK - and the other, a new device from Lenovo known as the OPhone or O1. The move comes as Unicom, China Mobile's smaller rival, is likely to announce an exclusive three-year deal with Apple to market the handset.
The newly found partnership, China Mobile fears, could cause a significant portion of its more affluent customers to leave the company for Unicom.
It is interesting to note that both China Mobile and China Unicom are members of the Open Handset Alliance which regroups commercial partners of Android.
China has around 700 million subscribers (with China Mobile serving more than 415 million) but only a tiny fraction of them have access to 3G services, which means that the country could become a huge battleground for rival handsets over the next few years.
Apple and China Mobile held negotiations around the end of 2007 but they were apparently unsuccessful because of Apple's insistance on a 20 to 30 percent revenue share from iPhone's customers.
Another development early this year that involved China Mobile, Vodafone (which owns 3.3 percent of China Mobile) and Softbank was the plan to launch a "single global platform for mobile app developers", to emulate the iPhone's symbiotic relationship with the App Store.