oPhone OS moves toward Android
Confusion reigns about the future strategy for oPhone, China Mobile's smartphone platform.
Last week, the carrier said it was setting up an industry alliance to broaden the device ecosystem for oPhone and its TD-SCDMA 3G platform, and to get other operators interested.
But now it seems the price of that extended influence and buying power may be to lose some of oPhone's distinguishing features, and move it far closer to vanilla Android.
Although the oPhone OS is Android-based, it is so different that its apps are incompatible with other variations of the Google system. This was partly a result of supporting China Mobile's particular network and language requirements, but also an element of its strong desire to create its own user experience and brand identity.
Now, China Mobile may be moving more towards the mainstream, according to reports in Marbridge Daily, which said Borqs - the design house behind oPhone - will align the next version more closely with Android.
That is not really surprising. Borqs already has an international version of oPhone that is closer to Android, and has been used by Dell and approved by AT&T.
It would make perfect sense for China Mobile to allow any Android app to run on its platform, and it could still retain its own distinctive UI overlay, as HTC does with Sense.
More unexpected is a reported disillusionment with oPhone and Android within China Mobile. The Mobinode blog cites insiders within the carrier, saying oPhone was "dead" in its current form, and expressing negativity about Android. China Mobile has been getting increasingly close to Nokia and Symbian, and has been expected to introduce the OS – which leads the Chinese mobile OS market – to its portfolio, running the oPhone UI and chipset.
We suspect the truth behind these various reports is that China Mobile will extend oPhone to embrace multiple operating systems but seek to enhance its apps base by working with international platforms.
Meanwhile, Borqs will continue to develop its own platform, possibly in different directions, in a bid to gain another major supporter alongside its Chinese customer.