Dell launches smartphone at last, in China and Brazil

by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless

Dell has finally launched its first smartphone officially, showing off the touchscreen Mini 3 and targeting it at emerging markets, although rumours of an AT&T deal persist. The Android phone had already been seen in prototype form at China Mobile, which will start to sell the device later this month, and Brazil’s Claro has also signed up and will offer the Mini 3 before the end of the year.

Prices were not revealed, and nor were many other details beyond being a 3.5-inch touchscreen Android model with high definition and no physical keyboard. Full specs will be announced soon.

Ron Garriques, president of the Dell global consumer group and formerly head of Motorola mobile devices, said in a statement: “Our entry into the smartphone category is a logical extension of Dell’s consumer product evolution over the past two years.” It may be logical, but it is belated – Dell was expected to unveil its smartphone almost a year ago and has been beset by rumors of carrier coolness towards its designs, though The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Dell would make a handset for AT&T for release in 2010. Arch-rival Acer has been quicker off the mark, pushing out several phones this year including its new Android/Snapdragon model, the Liquid.

Given the cut throat competition in developed markets, trying to make an early play for mobile economies with huge growth potential, such as China and Brazil, makes sense, despite the possible impact on margins. And Dell already has carrier and channel relationships in these two huge markets – it was the first PC maker to create a netbook with embedded TD-SCDMA for China Mobile, earlier this year, and says it is the leading netbook seller in the country. And it opened a $100 million plant in Brazil two years ago and has strong sales networks there, to which it has now added the endorsement of Claro (part of the America Movil juggernaut and with a user base of 42 million in Brazil).

In a research note, ABI points out that Dell has agreements in place with Vodafone in Europe and AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the US, for netbooks, and could build on these to push its smartphone too.

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