Vodafone Group Plc is about to launch in several European markets the first handset to emerge from the five-year partnership agreement signed earlier this year with Chinese manufacturer Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. The launch provides clear signs of where its 3G and 3.5G device strategy is going.
The V710 phone has been in development by the two companies for 18 months, according to Edward Chen, MD of Huawei in the UK. This suggests that it was the success of this project that led the carrier to sign on the dotted line for five years, a deal announced at 3GSM last February.
The phone has GSM/GPRS and W-CDMA connectivity, or 2/2.5 and 3G, in generic terms. It is not, however, a smart phone and is not running an extensible OS like Symbian, Windows Mobile 5.0, or Linux to which third-party apps can be downloaded. To use the taxonomy current in the 2G world, it can be thought of as a 3G feature phone with features such as an MP3 player and a 1.3-Megapixel camera, as well as access to Vodafone services such as radio, mobile TV, music downloads, video telephony, and the Vodafone live! portal.
When asked what OS the phone is running, Huawei said it is Vodafone live!, in other words, the mobile internet platform has effectively become the OS, with the underlying operating system obviously a proprietary, non-extensible one. Huawei also said, quite candidly, that it does not currently have a smartphone offering, and we are focusing on building relationships with operators worldwide for our 3G, CDMA, and WCDMA handset portfolio.
Its mission, and the purpose of the Vodafone/Huawei deal, is to produce handsets that Chen said make 3G more popular. And those will be phones sporting the Vodafone brand only. Huawei does supply HSDPA, 3.5G technology to Vodafone, but in data cards for laptops.
The carrier’s supplier of choice for 3.5G handsets is Samsung, which has a foot in both the Symbian and WM5 camps, suiting Vodafone’s business model of offering enterprise mobility services on platforms.