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HTC unveils smartphone for Chinese Twitter-like service

The new smartphone has a button to access Twitter-like services from Chinese firm Sina

After announcing smartphones with a dedicated Facebook button, HTC is trying the same formula in China. This time it will have a button connecting to one of the country's largest Twitter-like services in the country.

On Thursday, HTC unveiled a smartphone with a dedicated button for Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service that now has 140 million registered users.

Like HTC's Facebook phone, the new handset is designed for easy access to the Sina Weibo service. Users can post to their Sina Weibo account and share photos and music by pressing the dedicated button below the phone's touchscreen.

Called the Weike, the phone features a 3.4 inch touchscreen, and uses the Android operating system. HTC said the smartphone will hit Chinese retail stores soon and sell for 3,380 yuan (US$524).

HTC's Weike is the first smartphone exclusively designed for Sina Weibo, which has become one of the hottest Internet services in China after being launched almost two years ago. The country now has 485 million Internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Sina isn't the first Chinese Internet company to partner with a handset maker to launch its own phone. Online gaming and social networking firm Tencent announced late last year it would launch its own Android smartphone. The device comes pre-installed with 19 of the company's applications, allowing easy access to Tencent's instant messaging service and microblogging platform.

Taobao, China's largest online retailer, also previously launched a handset with its own brand, that came pre-installed with the company's applications. Such phones are being made to help promote the companies' products as more Chinese users rely on their handsets to connect to the Web, analysts said.

About 95 million smartphones are forecast to be sold in the country this year, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

HTC launched its first branded phone in China last July. Along with the new Weike phone, HTC is also launching its Flyer tablet in the country this month.


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