Generally, most flagship smartphone launches by international corporations tend to be either in the US or Europe, with product launches in China usually reserved for local Chinese manufacturers and specific regional products. Breaking with tradition, Lenovo has just held a launch event for its new LePhone smartphone in China running a customized version of Android 2.1. First unveiled at CES earlier this year and aimed at the Chinese market initially when it becomes available in May, the company has reiterated its intention to release the LePhone in markets across the globe later this year.
The handset marks Lenovo's attempt to get a foothold in the mobile device market much like how Dell is planning to do with its Mini series of devices. At the event, Lenovo stated its intention to target both the enterprise and consumer markets and expressed its very high expectations, with Chief Operating Officer Rory Read telling journalists its ambitions to sell "millions" of phones over the next five years and "tens of millions" from then on.
In the hardware department, the LePhone is no slouch with a 3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED capacitive touch screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, a 3MP rear-facing camera and front-facing webcam, A-GPS, and 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth connectivity. One of the most intriguing and talked about aspects of the handset comes in the form of its optional, attachable accessory keyboard (shown in the top image and below), which combines with the phone to transform it from a candybar to a clamshell form factor. The company also demonstrated its custom Lenovo app store for its mobile devices at the event.
While Lenovo's mobile plans seem very ambitious, only time will tell if it can become a major player in the smartphone market. On the other hand, the LePhone seems like a really impressive and innovative first product, with competitive hardware specifications and some unique features. I also really like the overall design and the idea of the accessory keyboard, providing greater flexibility to consumers based on their needs.
While the customized widget-based Android interface looks very good and well thought out, I do have some concerns over it, especially after reading reports that it is not compatible with the existing Android ecosystem and Android Market, limiting users to the Lenovo app store only. Hopefully Lenovo will be able to add back compatibility with Android Market prior to bringing the LePhone to those of us outside China. Check out a hands-on video by Mobileburn at CES below and let us know your thoughts on the LePhone in the comments.