Motorola Rolls Out Three New Smartphones in China

Handset manufacturer Motorola is hoping to parlay the growing popularity of Google's Android mobile operating system to jumpstart sales of its smartphones in China and regain prominence in a market it once dominated.

Motorola (NYSE: MOT), which got the jump on its competitors back in 2006 when it was the first to introduce handsets that let users input Chinese characters using a stylus on a touchscreen, has seen its once-dominant share of the Chinese handset market eroded by the iPhone, the BlackBerry and a number of other mobile devices that were quick to copycat its technology.

This week, Motorola struck back with release of three new handsets (one for each of China's state-run mobile networks) that aim to reinvigorate its established Ming brand by offering a number of must-have features including high-definition video cameras, full touchscreens, the familiar transparent "flip" design and, most important, the Android 2.1 mobile OS (upgradeable to Android 2.2 later this year).

"The new Ming smartphones reflect our focus on intuitive intelligence and are designed to adapt themselves to you and your life," Frank Meng, president of Motorola's mobility unit in China, said in a statement. "With Ming, we've combined our engineering expertise with a deep understanding of how people in China use their devices to create powerful, user-friendly smartphones that 'feel just right' and will bring great mobile experiences to our customers here."

The MT810, XT806 and A1680 models vary in price up to $740, or 5,000 yuan, without a contract.

Motorola this year has now introduced a total of 11 Android-based mobile devices in China and, according to market research firm Analysys International, ranked third behind Nokia (26.7 percent) and Samsung (17.9 percent) with 13.6 percent of the Chinese smartphone market in the second quarter.

Gartner's latest smartphone report found that Android-based devices enjoyed the most growth among smartphone units sold in the second quarter, rocketing up from 756,000 units sold to more than 10.6 million in the most recent quarter.

The popularity of Android-based smartphones, including Motorola's Droid X helped Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) mobile OS pass the Apple iPhone OS for the No. 3 ranking worldwide -- behind Nokia's Symbian and Research in Motion's BlackBerry -- and pushed it to the top spot in the U.S.

IT market researcher IDC predicts more than 26 million smartphones will be sold in China this year, up 51 percent from 2009. At its pinnacle in mid-2006, Motorola controlled 23 percent of the total Chinese handset market compared to just 2 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


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