Exclusive: Dell's Android phone is coming to the U.S.

Remember the Dell Mini 3i, Dell’s China-only Android phone? Well it’s not China-only anymore.

Rumor has it that Dell will bring the Mini 3i to the U.S. in the next few months to compete with other Android phones coming down the pike from HTC, Samsung, and Motorola.

The phone, presumably still in its Chinese trade dress, felt “cheap and plasticky, like the Pre,” according our tipster. He believes it will be upgraded for the American market.

The phone has better hardware than the Chinese version and a slightly better camera – probably 5-megapixel over the Chinese 3-megapixel. It is slimmer than the iPhone and the interface mimics, as seen from this photo, the iPhone’s icon-based launcher UI.

Interestingly, Dell is splintering the Android stack and shipping the phone with modified or missing Android libraries, making it a bit harder to program. The tipster reported that some apps won’t work on this version.

Dell hasn’t sold a smartphone since the Axim X51, an ill-fated WinMo PDA-alike last sold in 2007. This return to the smartphone market seems to be a direct attack on the WinMo architecture as Dell could have easily gone with something like Windows Mobile 6.5.

We’ll have photos of the new phone this week but we’ll add this to our Palm Pre and Pixi announcements as interesting new phones from ostensibly U.S.-based companies.