Hands on and video: Lenovo's Lephone

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Quick Hands-On With The Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G Hotspot

Lenovo gave us a chance to check out their latest smartphone today at CES 2010. It’s Android-based with a complete facelift and hardly any of the original OS sticking out. I doubt they intended it to be, but it seems like a sort of interesting mix of webOS, iPhone, and Android features. I quite liked it.

Apologies for the noise in the video above, it was captured in an incredibly crowded area. But you get the gist. Just cruise through and check out the screens and animations.

In shape it’s quite pleasing, a little big, but with a good heft and solid feel. The screen is a gorgeous 3.7″ 800×480 OLED one, although I couldn’t confirm whether it’s the same that’s in the Nexus One. It’s got volume buttons on the left side, there, and a reprogrammable button on the right. It’s got a Pre-like dark area at the bottom that’s also touch-sensitive, and works as either a home button or for simple swiping gestures.

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The OS is Android, and should be 2.0 at launch, though they declined to say when that might be. It’s completely skinned, though — Lenovo has it equipped with a sort of dual mode home screen, with one (the flower) being a contact jump-off point: you scroll through your contacts and then can pick a petal to message, call, or whatever. It’ll work if you can choose which contacts are included in that scrolling list, but if you have a couple hundred it’ll get confusing mighty fast. The other home screen is a series of widgets, they call it Widget Space, with stuff like weather, stocks, latest emails, that sort of thing.

It’s got the usual fixins: GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and all that, and it’s running on a Snapdragon processor, though I couldn’t seem to suss out the RAM or internal storage. We’ll hear more about that soon. The lady I spoke with had been using it as her phone for a good two months, so this is definitely final hardware apart from any radio bits to conform it to certain networks.

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Forgot to rotate some of these shots; sorry about that. There’s also media playback and all that — there was a little screen for selecting streaming TV channels or what appeared to be some pre-prepared content, movie trailers and such. The apps “drawer” is now a series of pages, like iPhone apps. It’s a proven technique, though of course slightly derivative.

There’s a connector on the left side with a cover that attaches magnetically (Clever? Yes. Dangerous? Also yes.). It lets the Lephone connect to what is envisioned as a series of peripherals, the first you see here:

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Yes, it’s a keyboard. I gave it a shot and it seemed to work just fine, although the key layout is tweaked in a slightly weird way. But it worked normally and actually closed up to form a large clamshell you could carry around.

From what I was told, the plan is to release the device in China first, then expand to the US. There were no carriers mentioned, and they were still working that out for China, so I wouldn’t even speculate just yet. But I was impressed by the phone and the complete little ecosystem they had going. I love me some Lenovo, and it looks like they know what they’re doing.

Here are the rest of the pictures: size comparison, other screens, and the usual glamour shots.

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