Reports Say Dell Will Launch Its First Smartphone in China

Dell apparently is getting into the smartphone business, but it’s picking its spots, at least initially, with great care.

Reports derived from a wayward email message and a Chinese technology website indicate that Dell is poised to release an Android-based smartphone for the Chinese market.

The Dell smartphone apparently will be called the “Ophone mini3i.” The model will carry the Ophone naming prefix because it is being branded and sold by China Mobile as part of its Ophone handset family, which encompasses other Android-based models including forthcoming models from Lenovo and HTC (which goes by the Dopod brand in China).

Technically, the Dell, Lenovo, and HTC handsets will run the OMS operating system, which is Android tweaked to run on China Mobile’s proprietary TD-SCDMA 3G network. Presumably, then, the Dell Ophone mini3i will run on TD-SCDMA, preventing it from working on European or North American networks.

There appeared to be some confusion on that front, however. An email apparently making the rounds on a China Mobile mailing list suggests that the Dell mini3i would work on China Mobile’s legacy GSM network rather than TD-SCDMA 3G. I suppose we’ll know the facts soon enough.

Presuming at least some of this scuttlebutt to be true, it’s interesting that Dell would choose a China-only debut for its first smartphone.

Then again, the product-family nomenclature — admittedly not chosen by Dell — gives the game away, doesn’t it? Ophone. It’s a bit subtle, sure, but what does it remind you of? Ahh, yes. And what national market has Apple’s iPhone not entered yet?

Dell must believe its new smartphone will have a better chance of success by going to where the iPhone isn’t — not yet, anyway — as opposed to invading turf where the iPhone already has staked a considerable territorial claim. It’s a wise move, I think.

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