NTT DoCoMo is making its first 3G move into the mainstream. The telco demonstrated four new 3G handsets aimed at everyday consumers that it will begin selling in Japan later this month.
The handsets are smaller and lighter than its current 3G phones thanks to some features being left out but they retain key 3G functions, said Kiyohito Nagata, managing director of DoCoMo's product department. These include: a megapixel-class camera, video telephony, a built-in music player and support for the latest ring-tones.
The handsets will appeal to users who aren't looking for the most cutting-edge technologies but still value certain 3G features that fit with their lifestyles, he said.
Among the features that the handsets lack is support for the Felica contactless smart-card system that enables phones to double as electronic cash or loyalty cards.
There are plenty of frivilous extras aimed at giving the phones a cool image however. The F700i from Fujitsu has a "relaxation mode" that plays soothing music and animation, while the N700i from NEC allows users to dress up video telephone calls with the type of on-screen graphics seen in cartoons, such as an exclamation mark. The P700i from Panasonic makes the phone's LED blink according to the content of incoming picture messages. A fourth handset, the SH700i, comes from Sharp.
Each phone will cost ¥10,000 (£51) less to manufacture than existing phones and are expected to cost consumers about the same as normal 2G handsets.
DoCoMo's effort to push 3G services into the mainstream comes three years after its first commercial 3G service in October 2001. It took until September 2003 for DoCoMo to get its first million 3G users, but subscriptions have since picked up and it now has nine million subscribers and is expected to hit 10 million in March.