Dell Mini 3i Smartphone Debuts in China, Reports Claim

The Mini 3i debuted in Beijing, marking Dell's official entry into the smartphone arena, according to local media reports. The Mini 3i runs an Android-based operating system but doesn't offer Wi-Fi or support 3G, which may not necessarily bar it from success.

The Dell smartphone reportedly headed for China has arrived, according to Cloned In China. The site reports that the Dell Mini 3i smartphone debuted in Beijing on Aug. 17, at the launch event for Mobile, which is said to be an app store set to launch at any moment.

Cloned In China offers a few snapshots of the slim, rather good-looking smartphone, which is said to feature a 3.5-inch touch-screen. Reportedly, the Mini 3i is 2G GSM only, so it doesn't support Wi-Fi or the Chinese standard WAPI. Bluetooth is on board, but the included camera is only 3 megapixels.
According to Slash Gear, there's a microSD slot, a miniUSB port, volume keys and a 950mAh battery - which may seem a little low, until one remembers that there's no 3G connectivity to drain it.
The smartphone was expected to run Google's mobile operating system, and according to Slash Gear it runs the Chinese designed Open Mobile System (OMS), which is an Android-based platform.
In all, not enormously impressive - which is what U.S. carriers originally told Dell, when it approached them about taking on its first phone.
"The feedback [from carriers] was lack of differentiation versus current upcoming products from HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, etc.," wrote Kaufman Brothers' analyst Shaw Wu in a March 23 research note. Wu also named the Palm Pre as a potential impediment to Dell successfully joining the smartphone market.
On March 25, speaking at Computerworld in Tokyo, CEO Michael Dell confirmed before a crowd that Dell was indeed "exploring smaller-screen devices."
Analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, says Dell's decision to launch its first smartphone in China can have particular benefits.
"I think it's good to do a geographically isolated launch, so you can see if you've got it right enough before you consider a launch in the United States," Kay told eWEEK. It gives Dell the chance to "make any potentially embarrassing mistakes out of view" of other markets.
Additionally, Kay said the Mini 3i's lack of 3G doesn't automatically discount it from being a success.
"If it offers something like nicely recoverable communications, in an area where speed is flaky ... then that actually might be a good positioning, if it's priced right," said Kay. "[The Mini 3i] has to have some appeal to that market, beyond being [affordable]. Robust communications would be valuable, if they can do that through software."
Remember, Kay adds, "People actually criticized Apple for introducing last-generation technology when it introduced the first iPhone."
Pricing information for the Dell Mini 3i has yet to be made available. Dell did not respond to requests for comment.