As China, the world’s largest smartphone market, grows wary of US surveillance, it is mulling its own “secure” smartphones in an attempt to insulate them from surveillance.
The effort – another step in the country’s quest to build a homegrown tech industry – would involve state-owned companies as well as some of the private players.
Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has joined with China’s ministry of public security to develop a mobile operating system for police officers that it bills as more secure.
The country’s largest chip-design company, Spreadtrum Communications Inc., separately said it would begin mass producing a set of chips that run a Chinese operating system by year-end.
In China, almost all handsets are either iPhones or are powered by Google’s Android operating system – something not to the liking of Chinese officials.
Even the Chinese-made ZTE Nubia Z5 smartphone runs on Android and includes a Qualcomm Inc. processor.
Now, ZTE Corp. is working on a secure smartphone for government agencies using an operating system developed in-house, and a processor chip from a Chinese supplier, a company spokesperson was reported as saying.
However, ZTE’s secure phone reportedly would not boast of features like camera, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connections to minimize security risks. But without these features, the phone is not likely to appeal to the general public.
At the same time, a ZTE spokesman said that it was not possible to use exclusively Chinese-made hardware and software in a smartphone, but to meet the needs of government agencies it is trying to use domestic suppliers as much as possible.