Lenovo calls new smartphone central to mobile strategy

The latest model of its Ophone contains new hardware and software

Lenovo announced a smartphone on Wednesday that executives said would be at the center of expanding the company's mobile strategy worldwide.

The device, called the Ophone, was shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is Lenovo's first smartphone since the Chinese company reacquired its mobile business company from a group of private investors for US$200 million in November.

A device branded the Ophone is already available in China, but the new smartphone contains improved hardware and software features. It has a 3.7-inch screen that can display images at an 800-by-400-pixel resolution. The smartphone can also plug into a docking station for use with a keyboard. It also supports gesture-based navigation, and users can move through a map by tilting the phone.

The phone runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset, said Rory Read, president and chief operating officer of Lenovo, during a press conference. The chipset includes a processor based on an Arm design and supports the WCDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) 3G standard. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. The company did not comment on support for TD-SCDMA (Time-Division Synchronous CDMA), a homegrown Chinese 3G system that is available in the earlier Ophone.

The phone will first launch in China and then could become available through service providers worldwide, a person familiar with Lenovo's plans said.

Lenovo is mostly recognized as a PC maker but is now looking for new opportunities to sustain growth, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said during a press conference.

"For us, the next big opportunity is mobile Internet," Yuanqing said.

Customers are eager to get smaller devices that can easily connect to the Internet. The desire to connect is growing as 3G networks mature and online content and services proliferate, he said.

Yuanqing said another key part of Lenovo's mobile strategy is lightweight PCs that boot up quickly and remain connected to the Internet all day. In the days leading up to CES, Lenovo launched the $US499 Skylight smartbook, a low-cost mini-laptop that the company said combines the best features of netbooks and smartphones, albeit without telephone functions.

The company also launched the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid, a laptop that includes a detachable touchscreen. The screen turns into a tablet on which users can surf the Web, play games or read e-books. The U1 Hybrid will cost about $1,000, a company spokesman said, without saying when it would be available.

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