In the last quarter of 2008, China Mobile announced plans to develop OPhone, their own Android-based operating system in partnership with select handset manufacturers such as Levono, HTC and Nokia. “OPhone” is a codename for phones that will be based on China Mobile’s OMS (Open Mobile System) which is essentially re-coded Android + TD-SCDMA (China’s home-grown 3G standard). Google’s Android software can be re-configured to support any carriers’ proprietary wireless value-added services platform – WVAS (e.g. music, messaging, apps, etc.).
We’ve seen a beta demo of Levono’s OPhone on Sina.com, but the first OPhone models that are designed to support TD-SCDMA have yet to hit the market. In fact, China Mobile is providing millions in R&D funding (RMB 600 million – $87.77 million US) to assist 12 TD-SCDMA phone and chip manufacturers with the development of their “on the drawing board” TD-SCDMA 3G phones. International handset manufacturers have heretofore been reluctant to build TD-SCDMA phones as the new “China built” network standard has yet to gain wide user acceptance, and is limited (for now) to China.
But that is not going to stop China Mobile from hitting the market with EDGE (2G) smartphones that are Android-based. HTC announced today that next month they will unveil a version of HTC’s “Magic” model for China Mobile. The new smartphone is Android-based and will be re-coded to support China Mobile’s WVAS. China Mobile’s (HTC’s) customized Magic won’t be cheap. It is expected to retail for about 5,000 yuan, or about $730 US … albeit the price has yet to be finalized. The new China Mobile Magic won’t be 3G, but rather will use China Mobile’s “EDGE” (2G) network. Meanwhile, China Mobile and HTC will continue with plans to develop another new Android-based OPhone model using TD-SCDMA 3G … although there has been no date set for HTC’s 3G OPhone launch.