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Dell today confirmed plans to enter the smart phone business and announced partnerships with two of the world’s largest mobile operators.

Dell plans to distribute its Android-powered Mini 3 smart phones through China Mobile, the largest telecommunications company in the world with more than 500 million customers, and Claro, which serves more than 42 million people in Brazil as part of the America Movil network.

América Móvil provides services to over 182 million wireless subscribers in the Americas, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Earlier this year Dell was the first mobile PC manufacturer to embed China Mobile’s 3G technology and services into its netbooks and quickly became the leading seller of netbooks through retail outlets in China. In addition Dell has existing agreements with other leading global telecom providers, including Vodafone in Europe; Australia/New Zealand, AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.; M1 and Starhub in Singapore; and Maxis in Malaysia.

It’s not clear whether the Mini 3 will show up in the U.S., but it may be likely since Dell has already submitted the Dell Mini 3iX to the FCC for approval with AT&T. PC World says a prototype of the device surfaced earlier this year, with a 3.5-inch touchscreen with 360-by-640 resolution, mini USB port, SD card slot and a 3.2-megapixel camera. The Mini 3 sold in China won’t have Wi-Fi at the start, but that may come later.

In other news, sales of smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system (OS) declined by 20 percent in the third quarter according to Gartner, despite a 13 percent increase in the total number of smartphone sales. Only 3.2 million WinMo smartphones were sold in the third quarter, Gartner said, down from the 4.05 million units sold in the third quarter of 2008.

According to the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC), smart phones equipped with Android will reach 6.5 million units in 2009 and grow to 31.8 million units in 2013. Worldwide factory shipments of smartphones are expected to rise to 235.6 million units in 2010, up 27.9 percent from 184.2 million in 2009, according to iSuppli.

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