Lenovo’s recently launched K900* smartphone, built on Intel’s latest mobile chipset, represents a bolder mobile push for Intel.
Intel took its first steps in the global market in 2012, introducing three Intel® Atom™ processor-equipped Google Android* phones in a handful of countries. This generation of phones included Lenovo’s K800*, which was released last May in China. The K800 marked the first mobile device Intel co-developed with an established smartphone OEM.
While the Lenovo K800 enabled Intel to establish a toehold in the smartphone market, the K900 offers a more ambitious feature set and a broader geographic push.
“The K800 was the first product with Lenovo and it was launched mostly for China,” said Jeff Lee, director of sales for Consumer Products, Lenovo Global Account, at Intel. “The K900 is the continuation of the partnership we have between the two companies and a validation, from the Intel perspective, that Intel is competitive in this space.”
“The K900 will be Lenovo’s first world phone,” added John Tennant, worldwide director of marketing at Intel.
Tennant, who preceded Lee in his Lenovo role, helped launch the K800 and K900. He has witnessed Lenovo’s smartphone evolution unfold first hand.
When Tennant began working with Lenovo in 2010, the company’s smartphone market share in China was approximately 0.7 percent. By 2012, however, Lenovo had become China’s second-ranked smartphone vendor by shipment, surpassing Apple and trailing only Samsung, China Daily reported. Lenovo ranked fifth in global market share, according to research published in February by Canalys, an analyst firm.
Tennant likened his experience with Lenovo to “knowing a movie star before they were famous.”
Lenovo’s smartphone growth coincides with Intel’s technical expansion. The K900 illustrates this push in a couple of ways. For one, the phone taps the new dual-core Intel Atom processor. Lee said SoC (System-on-Chip) technology is crucial for tightly integrated smartphone solutions. The technology also helps Intel keep pace with ARM*-based SoCs from rivals such as Qualcomm Inc. and Samsung Electronics.
Indeed, building the most efficient SoC has become a key mobile industry focus.
“SoCs are such a major factor in determining the capability of a mobile device that leading the mobile device industry is synonymous with leading SoC design,” TechCrunch observed.
The Intel Atom processor Z2580 processor, and others chips in the Intel Atom processor SoC platform family, provide increased power efficiency, when compared to earlier designs, resulting in extended battery life.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand from users to have an Intel® processor-powered phone,” Lee said.
Other features that contribute to the K900 market positioning include its 5.5-inch 1080p screen, which improves upon the K800’s 4.5-inch 720p display. The display’s 400 pixels-per-inch (PPI) count also gives it a 20-percent-plus resolution edge over the iPhone* 5 at 326 PPI.
Tennant said recent market research shows that phone buyers in Asia are gravitating toward big screens. He said Lenovo considered a few screen sizes for the K900 during its development and opted for the larger variety. He noted that the K900 will be the first phone to arrive in the market with LG’s new 5.5-inch display.
The product also aims to attract followers with its camera, which represents an upgrade over the previous model.
“It integrates the latest 13 mega-pixel camera with a very fast f/1.8 aperture,” Lee said. “This is definitely taking the trend of cameras on phones a step further.” In addition, the K900’s form factor may also help the Intel-powered device standout. Lee said the phone’s 6.9 mm thickness will turn some heads.
“We believe it is one of the thinnest smartphones out there compared to other designs,” he noted.
Early reviews of the K900 generally have been positive. With the new phone, “Lenovo finally put their money where their mouth is and launched an Android device actually worth lusting after,” according to an article from Mobile Magazine.
A Bigger Global Footprint
The K900’s technology boost has given Lenovo sufficient confidence in the mobile offering to seek an audience beyond the Chinese market.
“Lenovo has strong confidence in the K900,” Lee said. “Their interest is to go overseas. They believe this is a flag-bearer product for them to break into new markets.”
To wit, Lenovo will initially target 15 countries in Asia and the Middle East with the K900. Lee said Lenovo plans to stagger the launch time frame, beginning with China and moving on to other parts of Asia and the Middle East in June. Subsequent launch waves will continue through the beginning of October. Eventually, the phone will push west to India and Latin America.
“I believe it is a complementary situation: confidence in the phone technology and expanding geographic reach,” Lee said.
Expanded distribution positions Intel processor-based phones for increased demand and market share. China recently surpassed the United States in smartphone usage, according to Flurry, a mobile analytics firm. In February, Flurry projected that China’s installed base of smart devices—including smartphones and tablets—reached 246 million compared with 230 million devices in the United States.
Device sales in the Middle East are expanding as well. Gartner Inc. in March said mobile phone sales in that region are forecast to increase 64 percent between 2013 and 2016, when the market is expected to reach USD 32.7 billion.
Charting a Path
Lee said Intel is becoming a thought leader in the mobile technology field, after making some initial inroads in the market last year.
He pointed to the OEMs and carriers that have adopted Intel architecture within their product portfolios in recent months. Companies declaring support for the Intel Atom processor SoC platform for phones and tablet devices include ASUS and ZTE in addition to Lenovo.
He said the rising tide will benefit both the user and developer communities.
“I would tend to agree that we played catch-up last year,” Lee said. “We are now bringing a very competitive solution into the marketplace and, for us, we are basically able to chart out own path and determine our ability to compete.”
K900* at a Glance1
Lenovo IdeaPhone K900
Processor: Intel® Atom™ processor Z2580
Width and weight: .27 inch ( 6.9mm); 5.7 ounces (.16 kg)
Display: 5.5-inch (139.7 mm) IPS with 1080p
Camera: 13 mega-pixel; f/1.8 aperture
Availability: Initially in China, followed by a staggered global rollout to follow.
1Sources: Intel, Lenovo