France Telecom-owned mobile operator Orange on Tuesday launched a new smartphone that is one third smaller than its predecessor and said the handset is the world's smallest that can handle computer applications.
The carrier also said that by the second half of 2004 it would have specially designed "Orange-signature" phones from all six major vendors, adding models from South Korea's Samsung Electronics and Germany's Siemens.
The telephones have functions unique to Orange.
The phone it launched on Tuesday, the SPV C500, is contract manufactured for Orange by Taiwan-based High Tech Computer Corp (HTC) and runs on Microsoft Windows for smartphones. Orange was the first operator to launch a Microsoft-based phone, with HTC, some 18 months ago.
Smartphones are the top category of handsets. They have computer-like functions, such as word processors and email clients, and allow users to add and remove software.
The new phone will be available to consumers this summer in seven European countries: Britain, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia.
Orange said that in the future it may demand designs from phone makers that are even further tailored to Orange's specific needs. Currently it has a checklist of 200 requirements for a phone model to fit into the range of Orange-signature models.
"And that number of requirements has been increasing," Martin Keogh, Orange's vice president Global Product Management, told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Handset Forum.
Handset built into clothes
Until now, most of the Orange-signature models ordered from big manufacturers like Nokia, Siemens and Motorola, only adapt the inside of the phone, with Orange software. But the operator may demand more unconventional designs, Keogh said.
Orange is studying models that no longer look like ordinary mobile handsets, but offer mobile communications to consumers who cannot use their hands or need navigation information, like cyclists and car drivers.
"You can think of a phone embedded in a helmet or the communications embedded in a car," Keogh said.
Only in the last two years have European operators been successful in getting tailored designs from phone makers. They were first served by Asian manufacturers like Sharp which have experience in designing to specifications provided by Japanese mobile telecoms operators such as NTT DoCoMo.