Chinese users get some color with GPRS

Nearly every GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile phone on display at this week's CeBIT Asia exhibition included a small black-and-white LCD (liquid crystal display) screen and basic functionality, such as support for WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). One phone that stood out from the crowd was Haier CCT (Qingdao) Telecom's Wancaixing GPRS handset, scheduled to begin shipping later this year.

Instead of the standard black-and-white display, the Wancaixing offers a bright color screen, a feature that has long been common for mobile phones sold in the Japanese and Korean markets. In addition, the Wancaixing offers an impressive array of functionality for a mobile phone, including a voice recording function, a PDA (personal digital assistant) and an English-Chinese/Chinese-English dictionary.

"We wanted to make it more like Japanese phones," said T.K. Liang, senior product manager at Haier CCT, which is a joint venture between Hong Kong-based telecommunication equipment maker CCT Telecom Holdings Ltd. and Chinese consumer appliance heavyweight Haier Group Co.

While the Wancaixing may look impressive on display, its precise specifications and features have not been finalized as the phone's software is still in the process of "fine-tuning," he said.

The Wancaixing will retail for around 3,000 renminbi (US$362) when it ships later this year, Liang said. That is just slightly more expensive than Haier CCT's existing Tianguixing GPRS phone, which supports WAP but does not contain any of the additional features that will be offered by the Wancaixing. The Wancaixing retails for between 2,000 renminbi and 3,000 renminbi, according to the company.

One unusual aspect of the Wancaixing is its designer. While Sendo PLC designs most of the phones that are manufactured and sold by Haier CCT, which owns 35 percent of Sendo, that is not the case with the Wancaixing, Liang said. The phone's design and software were created by a Taiwanese company, he said, declining to provide the company's name.

Haier CCT has worked with the Taiwanese company to customize the design and will manufacture the phone at its plant in the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao, he said.

CeBIT Asia runs through Saturday, August 11.

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