Will Chinese Users Buy Android Phones Sans Google?

Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Lenovo are moving ahead with plans to roll out Android-based phones and services to China despite Google’s decision to postpone the launch of Samsung’s GT-i6500U and Motorola’s XT701 through China Unicom. Without Google’s support, though, the new handsets will have limited appeal.

Motorola said today it will launch an Android app store for Chinese users next month that will offer titles from multiple providers including Baidu, China’s top search engine. Motorola has already launched Android handsets with China Telecom and China Mobile, and its app store could serve as a replacement if the Android Market is barred from the country. Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson said this week it has no plans to delay the Chinese launch of the Xperia X10, an Android handset set for release this spring. And Lenovo has said it still plans to bring its LePhone to market in China this May before rolling it out to the rest of the world.

But thanks to the ongoing rift between Google and Beijing, the phones that will hit the Chinese market won’t feature apps such as Gmail and Google Maps, which have helped fuel Android’s success. Such an absence will further splinter Android as manufacturers and carriers create separate versions of the platform, ones that are acceptable to the Chinese government. More importantly, though, it removes a key selling point for Android phones. Whether Chinese consumers will buy Google-less Android phones is anybody’s guess, but the escalating conflict could hurt the efforts of Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Lenovo in the world’s largest mobile market.

Image courtesy Flickr user hunxue-er.

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