China Mobile iPhone killer will not be cheap

The first 3G Ophone will 'definitely not' fall in the $US150 price range, Lenovo Mobile said

Lenovo Mobile is designing handsets for China's national 3G mobile standard that will sell for as little as $US150, but its high-end handset made to rival the iPhone is not one of them, the company said Wednesday.

The company's O1, the first handset that will use both the Chinese 3G standard and an operating system made by carrier China Mobile, has a display and a body that resemble the iPhone. But while Chinese carriers aim to start drawing more 3G users with handsets that sell for around 1,000 yuan ($147), the O1 will "definitely not" fall in that price range, Chen Wenhui, marketing vice president for Lenovo Mobile, said at a press event.

"This is a high-end mobile phone for Internet use," Chen said.

China Unicom, which is racing with China Mobile and a third local carrier to attract 3G users, plans to start selling the iPhone in the fourth quarter, officially bringing the phone to a country where many wealthy urbanites already use versions of the handset bought overseas. The carrier has said it will offer both the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS at "competitive" prices.

Lenovo Mobile has said it aims to start selling its rival to the iPhone this month. "The launch of the O1 symbolizes that competition between the Ophone and the iPhone has fully begun," the company said in a statement. "Ophone" is the nickname China Mobile has given to handsets that use its propriety mobile OS, which is based on Google's Android.

A report on local portal Tencent cited an unnamed source as saying the Lenovo Mobile phone will cost around 5,000 yuan, but that users will be able to buy it for 1,500 yuan if they also subscribe to China Mobile's 3G service. The first handset to launch with the China Mobile OS, a 2G version of the Magic handset from High Tech Computer (HTC), sells for 5,000 yuan.

At the press event, Lenovo Mobile displayed its iPhone rival and mock-ups of four lower-end handsets that will also use TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), the homegrown 3G mobile standard being promoted by China Mobile and Beijing. The lower-end handsets will sell for China Mobile's target price of 1,000 yuan, and one is slated to go on sale this year.

Lenovo Mobile is also working on its next 3G Ophone, which will target a younger audience and support Flash, executives said.

The O1 will come with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, 8GB or 16GB of storage and pre-installed China Mobile applications such as the carrier's instant messaging client, but the phone is compatible with most Android applications, Lenovo Mobile said.

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