Lenovo, following the announcement of its Skylight smartbook and hybrid netbook-slate device, still had a trick up its sleeve for its press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company announced a smartphone called LePhone.

The device is based on Android 2.1, but features a heavily customised build of Google's operating system complete with brand new apps for almost every feature of the platform. It's difficult to see the similarities in places. That interface is said to be "contact-centric" - and it literally puts pictures of your contacts in the middle of the display, that you can scroll through before you choose who you want to contact.

A secondary touch area below the main display replaces the standard four-button Android layout. One central button can be tapped to view a menu, double-tapped to go "home" and swiped across to go "back" to a previous screen. There's also a function button on the side that enables certain functions - letting you motion-control a Google Map, for example, or acting as the shutter button for the camera.

The LePhone has a bright, clear 3.7-inch display on the front running at 800 x 480 resolution. We were told it wasn't an AMOLED display, but the press release we were handed claims it is, so we'll defer to the press release and say it is. There's a 3-megapixel camera on the back, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, and a dock connector on the left side that connects to the proprietary charger and a multimedia case - more on which in a minute.

Specs-wise, it's powered by Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon processor, has 8GB of internal memory, and has a replaceable battery, Wi-Fi, A-GPS, Bluetooth and radios for pretty much every type of phone network in the world. It measures 60mm wide and 12mm thick and has its own app store with "hundreds" of applications available. 

The aforementioned dock will be available separately and allows you to clip the handset into a QWERTY keyboard that also includes speakers and an extra battery. It turns the device from a regular touchscreen handset into a miniature computer, but can be snapped out of the dock again just as easily.

It'll be appearing first in China in May, and Lenovo refused to disclose any further plans for bringing it worldwide. However, by launching it at CES, it's clear that the company wants global attention for its early move into the smartphone market, and if it's popular then it's entirely likely that at least a successor would show up in Europe and the USA.

We'll keep you posted of further information.