update Chinese companies are trying to keep up with Apple's iCloud by introducing their own cloud-based mobile phones and services, with Huawei Technologies the latest to announce a "cloud phone".
Chinese news site China.org reported Thursday that the Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor unveiled yesterday its first cloud-based smartphone named Vision. The handset is powered by Google's Android 2.3 operating system (OS) and will be connected to Huawei's cloud platform, which reserves 160GB (gigabytes) of storage for every cloud phone user and can be used to "wirelessly push applications, music, photos and documents to users' devices automatically".
The company revealed that the phone will be made available in September although no details of its pricing were disclosed, China.org noted.
Huawei's cloud platform appears to be similar to Apple's upcoming cloud synchronization service, iCloud, which is also expected to launch in September. Cupertino's service is touted to ferry files, apps, app data, and media across its various iOS devices. It also syncs music across devices, but not for video content, an earlier report by ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET stated.
Huawei is not the only Chinese company banking on cloud services for a successful mobile device business.
E-commerce site operator, Alibaba.com, announced last month its Aliyun cloud OS and the K-Touch Cloud-Smart Phone W700, which was expected to launch at the end of July, according to a blog post on CNET. Aliyun will feature cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates and GPS (global positioning system) navigation tools, as well as synchronize and store call data, text messages, and photos in the cloud for access across other devices, including PCs.
China.org also reported that Chinese search engine operator Baidu has hinted it could be developing a mobile OS that allows smartphone users to perform a wide range of online activities through a mobile Web browser.
That said, the benefits these cloud services will bring will only come in the long run, said Lu Libin, an analyst with Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.
"All the moves can only bring long-term strategic benefits for those Chinese companies as the current Chinese telecom network cannot fully support the function of cloud-based mobile phones," the analyst told China.org. Besides, customers can't fully enjoy the convenience of "cloud phones" unless the wireless networks provide a faster speed, added Lu.
GfK telecom analyst Sun Kai also pointed out in the report that cloud-based phones are better suited for "first- and second-tier cities" where 3G network connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots are readily available and residents are able to afford more expensive phones.
Beware of hype
Gartner's principal analyst, Shalini Verma, sounded a note of caution, though, saying that consumers have to be careful about not getting carried away with devices that tout their ability to deliver cloud services.
"Cloud-based phones will emerge when smartphones and tablet devices can rely entirely on a browser-based experience by leveraging HTML5. Otherwise, they are no different from current Internet-connected devices," Verma told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.