China Mobile to Improve Smartphone OS With New Alliance

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As China's telecom operators compete to offer the best smartphones, the country's largest mobile carrier is making a new push to promote its own mobile operating system by establishing an "innovation alliance" to further its development.

China Mobile, which has more than 570 million customers, launched its mobile operating, OMS (Open Mobile System), last year. The operating system is based on Android, but was modified to localize it for the China market. Handsets that use the operating system have been branded as Ophones.

Manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung and Lenovo have already been building and selling smartphones using OMS. But China Mobile still faces stiff competition over who can offer the most attractive handset offerings. China Unicom, although far smaller with 163 million mobile subscribers, offers some of the most popular smartphones in the country. For example it is the sole Chinese carrier of Apple's iPhone 4.

Analysts have said this has put China Mobile at a disadvantage. But to improve on its smartphones, the carrier announced on Monday it was preparing to establish its Ophone Innovation Alliance, said Bill Huang, general manager of the China Mobile Research Institute.

"Our Ophone strategy is constantly moving forward," Huang said during in a speech at a conference in Beijing. Huang did not give any specific details about the alliance, but encouraged potential partners to participate once more information is publicized. The company has spent over a year planning the alliance.

The announcement follows China Mobile's effort to promote its OMS in April, when Huangurged developers in Taiwan to build more mobile applications for the operating system. At the time, Huang said there were around 600 apps developed specifically for Ophones. In contrast, Apple's App Store features more than 300,000 third-party applications.

Building less expensive smartphones without sacrificing quality is critical to China Mobile's business strategy, Huang added. "If we can effectively make an advanced smartphone less expensive, then more users will come to use China Mobile's services in a shorter amount of time," he said.

China Mobile is also working to introduce more middle and higher-end smartphones for its 3G network, said company chairman Wang Jianzhou during a speech at the conference.

While China Mobile may have a relatively small number of applications for OMS, the company's app store continues to gain in popularity. Since it opened in 2009, the carrier's Mobile Market has recorded 70 million downloads, Wang said. The store features apps and multimedia downloads for different mobile operating systems.

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