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Monday, August 17, 2009, 12:15 pm PT (03:15 pm ET)

Dell, Apple look to compete in Chinese smartphone market

Dell unveiled Monday a prototype of its upcoming cell phone in China, as both it and Apple hope to launch competing smartphones in the nation very soon.

The Dell Mini 3i is a capacitive touchscreen device with a 3.5-inch screen. It has a 360x640 pixel display and runs a version of Android known as the Open Mobile System. While the GSM device lacks Wi-Fi, has no physical keyboard, and has only 2G data speeds, it also sports a 3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and an expandable microSD slot. The first images of Dell's new hardware were captured by the Chinese Web site mobile.163.com. While the new device shown is only a prototype, Dell has confirmed that it is developing mobile devices for China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the country.

When the device is launched, it is expected to include downloadable content, including music and games. The Dell Mini 3i was shown as part of a new applications store for China Mobile.

The news comes as Apple has been pushing hard to begin selling the iPhone in the country of over one billion. Though it has been falsely reported numerous times that a deal has been reached, Apple and China Unicom, the second-largest carrier, are currently in negotiations to bring the handset into the country. A WCDMA model of the iPhone, without Wi-Fi, has already been granted regulatory approval by the Chinese Government. The new hardware reportedly opertes on the 900MHz, 1700MHz and 1900MHz bands, includes Bluetooth, and has been certified for use in China for the next five years.

Early this year, Dell was strongly rumored to be entering the cell phone market in the near future. Then, in March, U.S. carriers reportedly saw a prototype of the device, only to reject it.

Dell Mini 3i 1


While Dell is the world's second-largest PC maker, it is interested in entering the smartphone market, which carries much higher margins than computers. Dell previously sold PDAs under the Axim brand, but this would be the hardware-maker's first foray into the cell phone world.

Dell Mini 3i 2