The China subsidiary of High Tech Computer (HTC) will launch up to three mobile handsets with Google's Android operating system this year, according to the company.
The three handsets include a model that uses China's homegrown 3G standard, a low-end phone with a removable face called the HTC Click, and the HTC Hero, said Jackie Zhang, marketing director at Dopod, which distributes HTC handsets in China, in an interview.
HTC's Android handsets have proved popular in the U.S. and Europe after the company became the first to sell an Android phone last year. HTC is also the world's largest maker of Windows Mobile handsets, which have gained a following in China.
No major manufacturer has launched an Android handset in China yet.
Dopod's low-end Android handset, code-named Click and not yet offered through HTC in other countries, will launch in China in the fourth quarter and cost around 3,400 yuan ($500), Zhang said. It will come with two detachable front covers that let users change the color of their handset.
The phone, which supports the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) 3G standard used by mobile operator China Unicom, could later launch outside China as well, Zhang said.
But first Dopod plans to launch the Hero, HTC's newest Android phone abroad. The Hero could start shipping in China late this month, though government tests for the phone's network access license could push the date back, said Zhang. China requires such testing for all handsets sold in the country.
The Hero will cost around 5,600 yuan, over 50 percent more than the Click, Zhang said. The 3G handset, also for China Unicom's network, will support the wireless LAN security protocol that China developed and is requiring in phones that support Wi-Fi, he said. The HTC Hero offered outside China does not support that protocol.
Another change made to the Hero for China will be the removal of Google Maps as an embedded application, Zhang said. Each piece of software put on a mobile phone must receive government approval, and China appears to consider Google Maps to be sensitive, he said. Users will still be able to download the application themselves or visit Google Maps in a mobile browser, he said.
A bright "Chinese red" version of the Hero is being considered for China in addition to white and light brown models, said Zhang.
Dopod is also developing an Android handset that supports the 3G standard being promoted by China Mobile, TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous CDMA). China Mobile so far has struggled to reel in users for the China-developed standard and hopes attractive handsets will support its efforts.
Dopod plans to release its Android handset for the standard late this year or next year, but its operating system is not confirmed, Zhang said. China Mobile might require the phone to use OMS (Open Mobile System), the carrier's own Android-based mobile operating system, rather than Android, he said. The China Mobile operating system is similar to Android but includes proprietary applications from the carrier such as its instant messaging client.
HTC's second Android phone in the U.S. and Europe, called Magic, will launch in China with the China Mobile operating system instead of Android, said Zhang. Dopod does not plan to launch the Dream, HTC's Android phone sold by T-Mobile as the G1, partly because keyboard-based handsets are not popular with Chinese users, he said.
Dopod could release between five and seven more Android phones in China next year, Zhang said.