Vendors cool on MIIT mobile phonebook standard

Sen-lun Yu
18 Dec 2008

At a time when mobile users are beginning to save their data in the cloud, China's MIIT is aiming to standardize the handset phonebook. It announced a 'unified phonebook standard' in March with the aim of allowing users to easily port their phone numbers from one phone to another.
While it obviously seems a good idea to the MIIT, handset manufacturers are mostly indifferent. Foreign vendors, which last year accounted for 60% of the 149 million phones sold, are not yet buying in. Neither have the large local players like Lenovo, TCL and ZTE. Only a handful of no-name domestic vendors have signed up for the program.

Motorola expressed its support in-principle, but a company spokesperson could not say when it would issue product that met the standard. Nokia said it was still evaluating the standard.

The initiative comes in the wake of the MIIT's introduction last year of a common battery charger port on all phones. That received support from Chinese manufacturers, although foreign vendors took some persuading before they agreed to commit resources to a non-global standard.

Deng Zhongyuan, senior analyst at Beijing-based Analysys International, said the new standard was aimed at pleasing consumers but would have little impact on the mobile phone industry.
'The policy would not raise the core value of individual mobile manufacturers, and for major brands, they may even face more competition from new comers because of the unified standard,' he said.

'With many Chinese brands now certified for the standard, this will help local brands to form alliances that make them more competitive, as consumers can easily change phones among these brands,' he says.

But Deng said it would make more sense for carriers to deliver the service to customers themselves as a premium service, especially when they see handset vendors already in the market.

Apple is charging iPhone customers $99 a year to join its 'MobileMe' platform, which allows them to store their contacts and calendar on Apple servers and sync remotely.

'By providing the data exchange service, carriers may gain more loyalty from their customers. Besides, this would enable third-party software developers to explore data exchange, transfer and synchronization technologies,' Deng says.

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