Five years after confirming its Windows phone plans, Lenovo's new handset launches next week

Back in July, Lenovo's first Windows 10 Mobile handset was unveiled, and it will finally go on sale next week. To say it's been a long time coming is something of an understatement.

A Lenovo executive first confirmed plans to launch a Windows phone in November 2011, saying it would arrive in the second half of 2012. The device never materialized, and it seemed those plans had been abandoned until February 2014, when Microsoft announced that Lenovo was one of nine new Windows Phone partners.

Later that year, Lenovo said the company's first Windows phone would arrive in 2014, but there was no sign of that device. When Microsoft announced its Windows 10 launch plans last year, it said Lenovo Windows phones would be "available in mid-year 2015 via China Mobile". Once again, that didn't happen. Another Lenovo exec said in mid-2015 that Microsoft's cross-platform software efforts had made Windows phones less relevant.

So it came as quite a shock when Lenovo's new Windows 10 Mobile handset was revealed a few months ago. But while the device bears Lenovo's logo, it will actually be marketed under the brand of the Japanese carrier that will be selling it, apparently as a global exclusive.

It will launch on November 11 as the SoftBank 503LV, and will be the first Windows 10 Mobile handset, and the first Lenovo phone, to be offered by SoftBank, the Japanese parent company of US carrier Sprint. It's aimed at business customers, promising a 'luxury glass' design, along with support for Windows 10 Mobile's Continuum feature, which allows buyers to use a mouse and keyboard with the device when it's connected to a larger display.

Its key specs include:

  • 5-inch TFT LCD with HD (1280x720px) resolution
  • Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB onboard storage (plus microSDXC card support up to 128GB)
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 5MP front-facing camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2250mAh battery
  • 142.4 x 71.4 x 7.7mm; 143g

Curiously, as MSPoweruser notes, the device bears a striking resemblance to a device made by Coship, but not - as its article implies from the image they used - the Coship Moly X1.

Rather, the size, front and rear camera placements, and location of the antenna lines make the SoftBank 503LV look a lot like the Coship X5W reference design (which Coship offers under its own brand as the Moly W5). Coship is an original design manufacturer (ODM) that builds handsets for other companies, which they can modify and sell under their own brands. The standard specs of the X5W reference design are far lower than those of the 503LV, but companies are able to alter and customize any aspect of a reference handset to suit their requirements.

It would certainly be a very unusual arrangement for Lenovo, which owns Motorola, to use an ODM reference design, heavily modify it, and apply its logo to the handset to sell to one carrier, which will be marketing the device under its own brand anyway. SoftBank's press release states that the 503LV is "made by Lenovo", but it's hard to overlook the uncanny resemblance to the Coship device.

Despite its imminent launch, SoftBank still hasn't announced pricing for the new handset. The carrier originally said that it would go on sale in October.

Source: SoftBank (Japanese) via MSPoweruser

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