Chinese search giant Baidu has taken a huge step to advancing its mobile business strategy after it jointly unveiled the Lenovo A586. The smartphone, powered by its Baidu Cloud system, marks its most significant mobile launch to date.
The device will hit shelves in China on December 12, after first being sold via Juhusuan on Alibaba’s Taobao virtual mall from December 10, coming in at a cost of 999 RMB (circa US$160). The phone is indelibly marked with a range of Baidu’s services, the fanciest of which is a ‘voice unlock’ feature — developed by its Singapore-based BIRC R&D centre — which lets users unlock the device using nothing more than their voice, as we noted last week.
There is deeper importance to the phone and the Baidu features on it, however, even the partnership with Lenovo — which holds China’s second largest smartphone marketshare — is a big deal since it is the largest scale OEM that Baidu has teamed up with to date. The phone will run Baidu’s ‘Cloud Mobile’ platform, which gives users access to a range of Baidu services, including cloud storage, cloud computing, cloud customization and cloud collaboration.
Baidu announced the Cloud platform, which sits on top of the Android operating system, in May to help give device makers an out-of-the-box system that localizes a device with its service. As well as appealing to Chinese Web users, Baidu hopes that will boost usage of its own cloud-based products. The company says another key benefit of the system is that it enables the production of sophisticated smartphones at a sub-1,000 RMB price-point.
That is important in China where high-end devices are not mainstream; case-in-point, the sheer range and affordability of Android-powered devices has seen the Google-owned OS grab 90 percent of the smartphone market.
The Snapdragon MSM-powered Lenovo A586 also benefits from Baidu’s recent deal with chipset maker Qualcomm which gives users 15GB of storage for one year. A further 15GB of storage is available for the lifetime of the device once users have activated Baidu’s cloud service on it.
This device is arguably Baidu’s most significant phone to date. Baidu has released devices with Dell and local Chinese brands Chonghong and TCL, but, in Lenovo, it has a big name partner and a feature-rich device that will appeal to budget-conscious smartphone buyers.
The Chinese search giant said in June that it was talking to some 20 handset makers over Baidu Cloud devices, and it will be interesting to see which partners and phones are in the pipeline.
For comparison, Nokia launched its Lumia 920T with China Mobile this week. The device will be available before the end of the year, but for the pricier sum of 4599 RMB ($739).
Image via LIU JIN / AFP / Getty Images