U.S. carriers may have passed on a Dell smartphone, but the computer-maker-cum-smartphone-maker announced on Nov. 13 that it has found two new partners: China Mobile and Brazil's Claro.
Dell confirmed its entrance into the smartphone business-in the past, Michael Dell has discussed exploring small form factors, and CFO Brian Gladden has dismissed the China Mobile phone as a prototype-named its carrier partners and introduced its smartphone: the Mini 3.
The Mini 3 will run Google's Android operating system, though Dell shared few other specifics.
"Dell's Mini 3 smartphones reflect the elegant look and style that demonstrates Dell's commitment to design innovation. Details of phone models will be announced on a partner-by-partner basis when devices are available in stores, anticipated in late November for China Mobile and year's end for Claro," according to a Dell statement.
An image of the Mini 3 on Dell's Flickr site matches images that were released on Aug. 17 by Cloned In China, during an event in Beijing where Dell released the prototype Gladden referred to. The phone features a clean, button-free face with a 3.5-inch touch screen.
Geared for the Chinese market, it reportedly also features Bluetooth, a 3-megapixel camera, a microSD slot, a miniUSB port and a 950mAh battery, though Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity were said to be not included.
Jo???o Cox, president of Claro, said in a statement, "Claro is proud of being the first wireless carrier in the world offering the 3G version of Dell's smartphone. This confirms the Brazilian market strength and Claro as a leading actor in introducing new technology products and services to the country."
Claro was founded in 2003 and serves more than 42 million customers. China Mobile was established in 2000 and claims more than 500 million subscribers.
"We are excited for Dell to be among the first manufacturers to introduce new technology based on the OPhone platform," a China Mobile spokesperson said in the statement.
OPhone, according to ChinaDaily, is an operating system, or platform, developed by China Mobile that interfaces with the carrier's TD-SCDMA 3G standard. Lenovo, Philips and Samsung are said to be developing phones based on the platform as well.
"It's interesting to me that they're bringing it out in China and Brazil first, but I'm not surprised," Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK. Kay said it would help Dell, "a quintessentially American company," grow its reputation abroad. Eventually, though, he expects the Mini 3 will come to the United States as well.
While an overused example, Kay said, "it's like playing off-Broadway and then bringing the show to town."
Michael Morgan, an analyst with ABI, also expects the Mini to come to the United States. He points out that Dell has filed a Federal Communications Commission application for the Dell Mini.
"The application is toward the GSM/UMTS spectrum, making it a logical step that Dell would release the phone on the carrier they already have a relationship with ... AT&T," he told eWEEK.
While T-Mobile and Verizon have made Android-based phones intrinsic parts of their holiday lineups, AT&T has yet to offer an Android device.
"One key reason that I speculate for this is that AT&T does not want to have Android and the iPhone going head to head on their network," said Morgan. "However, AT&T must deliver an Android phone to its customers, as it is a highly demanded OS. With a simple Dell 3 Mini, AT&T can offer an Android phone that is not targeted as being an iPhone killer-like the Verizon Droid is."
Morgan added, "The only consumers who should be excited about this are the ones who are into Android. Although this device may not be bleeding edge, in terms of functionality, it will be a solid, middle-of-the-road device."