Japan (AP) Like a child with a futuristic toy box, Matsushita
executive Toshiro Iizuka lifts the latest test models from his
The first is worn
like a wristwatch, held up to the head like Dick Tracy's. The second
has a detachable tiny ball that's a digital camera. Another resembles
a portable video-game machine.
All are cell phones.
The dazzling and
slightly wacky mock-ups, not all destined for the market, were
designed for the next big step in wireless telephony services
3G, or Third Generation, whose global debut is set for the Tokyo area
Japan has the
world's biggest Net-linking mobile phone market, with some 30 million
users. That's one in every five Japanese.
already use cell phones to view colorful animation, exchange e-mail
and instant messages, play simple video games and view train
schedules, stock prices and restaurant guides.
introduction of 3G by NTT DoCoMo promises to turn the portables into
even fancier commodities.
The new devices
will be capable of delivering streaming video and snappy Web surfing
and could help mobile commerce take off.
So getting the
right look and feel in a souped-up cell phone could be an important
lifestyle choice for many.
"I want to
make mobile phones that look cool to use, like a musician on an
instrument," said Iizuka, who plays saxophone and drums.
No longer will a
person's choice of cell phone revolve around issues as mundane as
weight, size and battery life in Japan, at least.
Communication Industrial, maker of the Panasonic brand, has already
produced snazzy phones that at 5 inches tall are slightly shorter
than a ball point pen and a snap to use with just one hand.
But all that is
child's play now, Iizuka said during a show-and-tell at a Matsushita
design facility in Yokohama.
features, many revolving around entertainment, promise to make it
tempting to forget that the phones are ultimately for talking.
One of Iizuka's
mockups comes with two screens, side-by-side, for Web surfers who
insist on looking at two sites at once. Another has a stylus to
scribble messages over e-mail and photos for a personal, emotive touch.
A new technology
called Bluetooth that links untethered mobile devices will allow
people to use cordless earphones to listen to music stored on cell
phones that they've put in their handbags.
There will also be
the need to keep up with the fads of Japanese adolescents.
talk to think all this is crazy," says Iizuka.
spunk and style, Japanese handset-makers have long been losers internationally.
30% of the domestic market but just one-twentieth of the global pie,
is among Japanese manufacturers who hope an edge in 3G technology
will help them close ranks with the likes of Nokia, Motorola,
Ericsson and Siemens.
Most of the
world's leading phone makers are working on 3G handsets of their own,
Even Fujitsu, a
relatively minor player in Japan and virtually a non-player abroad,
has its eyes on the foreign market. It was a pioneer with Matsushita
in producing cell phones that can store Java language-based programs
for games, stock listings and alarm clocks.
already has on the market the 13,800 yen ($120) J-SH04 phone with an
embedded digital camera that will permit instant transmittal of
snapshots by e-mail to personal computers and some cell
phones. A 9,800 yen ($85) printer spits out postage-stamp-size photos.
the wireless Web boom a fad unique to Japan.
But boosters argue
that the rich content and instant information that made the Internet
such a hit on computers in the United States will eventually do the
same there on cell phones.
managing director of sales planning for J-Phone Communications, which
offers Net cell phone services in Japan, believes the huge potential
for the mobile Internet lies in entertainment not the business
use that European and U.S. companies seem to be banking on.
"You're in a
taxi from your office to our office, and you're probably not going to
want to do research on World War II during that time," Timmons
said. "But you may want to download the latest melody or see
what's happening in the movie theater."