Lenovo Planning High-Tech, High-End “iPhone Killer”

Company Developing Handset Aimed At Luxury Market In China, Featuring 3G and Operating System By China Mobile

Will Lenovo really be able to rival the iPhone in China?

Will Lenovo really be able to rival the iPhone in China?

As the world’s largest mobile phone market, constant innovation is a must for Chinese handset makers who want to compete on quality and features rather than low price. As we wrote several months ago, some of these high-end handsets — like the VEVA S90 — are designed to appeal to the luxury market more for their styling and exclusivity, but as Computerworld‘s Owen Fletcher writes today, Chinese tech companies like Lenovo are beginning to see the value in developing higher-profit models that use proprietary technologies.

With Apple’s iPhone expected to enter the Chinese market some time in the fourth quarter of this year, Chinese handset makers will have to intensify their efforts to create a touchscreen 3G phone with the features that consumers really want. So will Lenovo’s O1 be able to do what phones like the Palm Pre and Android G1 have not — topple the iPhone’s dominance in the smartphone market, if only in China?

[The Lenovo O1] 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.

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 ($732 US), but that users will be able to buy it for 1,500 yuan ($220 US) 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 ($146 US), and one is slated to go on sale this year.

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