Asustek smartphone hits market ahead of iPhone

Asustek launched a smartphone with a touch-sensitive screen, running Windows Mobile 6, just days ahead of the launch of the iPhone

Taiwanese electronics maker Asustek Computer launched a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone with a touch-sensitive screen on Wednesday, just days ahead of the launch of Apple's iPhone.

Asustek's new handset, the ASUS P526, wasn't meant to be an iPhone rival, nor is the timing auspicious, being so close to the launch of the iPhone, the year's hottest product. Development on the device started a year ago, and Asustek has simply followed its own timeline, according to Sannie Lee, a spokesperson at Asustek, talking to the press on the sidelines of Asustek's news conference in Taipei.

Andy Wu, account manager in the mobile communications department at Asustek, said the touch screen functions and other parts of the ASUS P526 were all planned into the design well before the iPhone was announced.

"The iPhone announcement did grab our attention, but I wouldn't say it had any impact on the way we designed our handset," he said.

The ASUS P526 has a 2 megapixel camera, TomTom navigation software for its built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver, Skype's Internet telephony software and an application that enables the handset to store business cards by taking a picture.

It launched in Taiwan on Wednesday and will reach Hong Kong by the end of this week, Lee said. Later this year, the company hopes to market the P526 in Europe and elsewhere. In Taiwan, the phone costs NT$18,800 (US$574).

The P526 comes with car attachments such as a dashboard mount to make it useful for a driver. Its battery will last four hours when used for talking, and it has 150 hours of standby power, Asustek said.

The handset has a 2.6-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen and -- unlike the iPhone -- it also has a keypad. The P526 will operate on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks in the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz bands. It works with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) data connections, but does not operate on 3G (third generation) mobile networks.

It comes with 128M bytes of flash memory for storage and has a Micro SD card slot.

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