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Aug 18, 2009

Dell Mini 3i finally revealed, runs iPhonized Android

Dell Mini 3i finally revealed, runs iPhonized Android

Another big name in the computer industry is dipping their toes in the mobile phone market - Dell unveiled the Dell Mini 3i at an event on which China Mobile presented their online mobile store.

Update: As PC Magazine reports, Dell have officially called the Mini i3 only "a proof of concept". According to the manufacturer the name has been made up by our fellow tech journalists over at Engadget and even Dell themselves don't have a name for the displayed device.

All the listed specifications are not final or even confirmed and Dell have simply intended to spice up the China Mobile event by "waving around" a prototype. For now Dell still don't have any current smartphones on the market - be it in China or elsewhere. So have that in mind please, while you're going through the photos below - those are officially "unofficial".

The spec sheet of the Dell Mini 3i is a bit self-contradicting. First off, it runs the China Mobile developed OMS - Open Mobile System, which is based on Android with TD-SCDMA phones in mind (TD-SCDMA is China's own 3G brew). The Mini 3i isn't 3G capable, just 2G GSM and doesn't count on Wi-Fi or WAPI - Chinese equivalent of Wi-Fi (those Chinese sure like homegrown solutions). Bluetooth is the only local wireless connectivity method.

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Live shots of the Dell Mini 3i

China Mobile launched an online store offering media, games and apps, which makes the lack of any sort of fast connection to the Interned a real downer. The store will cater a list of manufacturers including Nokia, Samsung and LG - plus apparently Dell. You can find the store at www.mmarket.com (it didn't work for us but it may be a regional sort of thing).

The screen of the Dell Mini 3i is 3.5" capacitive touchscreen with 360 x 640 pixels resolution. This resolution is a first for Android (OK, technically this isn't pure Android but still).

While the touchscreen nature of the device sets the tone for the design, there's something interesting about the front of the Mini - no keys. Vanilla Android is usable without the keys, but just barely, so the OMS interface will probably be very different - reportedly, it's inspired by the iPhone (rather unsurprisingly). An ambient light sensor adjusts the backlight automatically.

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Some more shots of the Dell Mini 3i

The camera on the Mini 3i is a 3-megapixel one with LED flash. There's a microSD card slot for storage. If OMS is anything like Android, it'll have a really tough time doing almost anything without a card so the slot is pretty much a necessity.

A miniUSB port handles PC connectivity but whether it will be able to charge the phone is still not known.

The specs so far read as rather low-end, save for the screen, so the built-in GPS comes as a pleasant surprise, and one of the Mini 3i's saving graces.

It's hard to tell if we'll ever see the Dell Mini 3i outside China, the launch date is not know either. Perhaps it depends on how well it performs, but more likely, it will stay China-only and Dell's next attempts will be the ones that manage to get across the Great Wall (if any).

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