Motorola unveiled a smartphone version of its handsets that feature a popular Chinese handwriting technology, in hopes that the company can make a comeback in China, where it was once the market leader.
Motorola's Ming handsets were originally launched in 2006 as phones designed
for Chinese users who preferred to input Chinese characters using a stylus on a
They have now been relaunched as third-generation, or higher-speed, smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
The smartphones come in three versions, one for each of China's state-run
Two of the phones offer high-definition video cameras and other features to attract the growing number of smartphone users in China's increasingly competitive market, where Apple and HTC are preparing to expand.
China is the world's largest mobile market by number of subscribers.
Apple, which officially offers the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in China, has said it is
planning to open 25 stores in China by the end of 2011. Apple partner China
Unicom (Hong Kong), meanwhile, has said it hopes to release the iPhone 4 in
China by year end.
Taiwan handset maker HTC is preparing to launch its brand and introduce four handsets in China this fall, including three Android phones.
Motorola's market share in China has dropped dramatically. It stood at 2% in the second quarter, down from 23% in the same quarter in 2006, according to research firm IDC.
But the handset maker's share of China's nascent smartphone market is
significantly higher than its share of the total market, with 13.6% of sales in
the second quarter, according to research firm Analysys International.
Motorola ranked third after Nokia, which had 26.7% share, and Samsung, which had 17.9% share, and higher than Apple and Research in Motion (RIM, maker of BlackBerry), which had 7.1% and 6% of the market, respectively.
Motorola, based in Schaumburg, USA, has adjusted its focus in recent years
to create high-end devices based on Android.
It is pursuing this strategy in China, betting that smartphone penetration will continue to increase quickly. IDC expects 26 million smartphones to be sold in China this year, 50% more than in 2009.
"The smartphone segment in China is growing very fast," said Frank Meng, president of Greater China for Motorola's mobile-devices business. "Countries like the U.S. are at the front of the curve, but China is catching up quickly."
Mr. Meng said the company is using the new line of Ming phones to introduce smartphone capabilities to existing Ming users, and to expand the target audience beyond high-end business users.
He said he expects Android to become the mainstream smartphone platform in
China as it has elsewhere, and that Motorola is "100% dedicated to Android."
Including the new Ming handsets,
Motorola has launched 11 smartphones in China since December, he said. He estimates that in the first six months of 2010 more than half of Android mobile phones shipped in China were Motorola phones.
Ming mobile phones are one of the most prominent examples of localization by a multinational handset vendor in China. The company estimates there have been roughly five million Ming users since the line was first launched four years ago. The phones have distinctive transparent covers that flip up to provide access to the touch screens.
Motorola is making other attempts to localize its products.
It has created a mobile-application store called SHOP4APPS, which accepts widely used Chinese online-payment methods such as Alibaba Group's AliPay and Chinese credit cards, according to Bin Shen , who is in charge of product development in Asia for Motorola Mobility.
The company is also working with content providers to package applications that it expects Chinese consumers to use.
Source: Wall Street Journal