DoCoMo have just launched their next generation FOMA handsets at a splashy event at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel — complete with bikini-clad beauties, big-name stars, and a sound and light show that blasted their five new 901i handsets into the spotlight. The D901i, F901iC, N901iC, P901i, and SH901iC models all come equipped with a 2-megapixel camera, stereo speakers, and enhanced audio and video for even more multi-slacking fun. In a ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’ press event move, DoCoMo announced that only the SH901iC will be ready for nationwide release on 26 November. Other handsets will ‘follow’ with no specific release dates given. DoCoMo says sales of FOMA cellys stand at 7.3 million. Sales of i-mode-compatible FeliCa e-wallet handsets stand at 600,000 units; infrared signal-compatible handsets, 27.2 million, and bar-code reader terminals, 14 million. Watch the video report here.
Sound and graphic capabilities on the 901i-series have been bumped up to what DoCoMo calls ’3D X 3D’: 3D stereo sense-surround sound and 3D graphics; they certainly are louder than previous models. DoCoMo is determined to be the cellco of choice for mobile game play and heavy-hitting games like Gundam, Bomberman, and Biohazard (Resident Evil outside Japan) come preinstalled and ready to play. Also included is the first mobile version of mega-popular golf game Minna de Golf (Golf for Everyone). 3D graphics on these handsets specifically target sharper resolution for small screen games and the 901i’s sound system is so well-tuned it lets players hear the whoosh of a golf club over grass and the distant moaning of approaching zombies.
Chaku-motion (video files) and Chaku-uta (download songs/melodies) have had their file sizes increased from 300 to 500 kilobytes. Mail attachments are backed up by a hefty 500KB as well, enabling full-sized pictures from the 2-megapixel camera to be mailed uncompressed directly to a PC. That’s ‘directly’ as in one or two minutes (… loading time during the demo we saw was still a little slow). But the full-size images look great!
Only three of the handsets, the F901iC, N901iC, and SH901iC, are equipped with DoCoMo’s FeliCa (virtual wallet) contactless IC chip. Why don’t all the handsets have it? Good question (DoCoMo did say, after all, that ‘all new phones’ would feature FeliCa).
It seems DoCoMo have had trouble procuring the necessary chips and some manufacturers are lagging behind in integrating the technology. NTT has addressed worries over FeliCa phone security by installing a remote locking feature on the new handsets that lets users lock out the IC e-wallet (or, indeed, all phone functions) by calling from any other phone via a preset number in case their 901i become separated from them deep inside Club Womb at 02:30 on a Sunday morning.
There are many more features, including the G-Guide to access TV program listings up to eight days in advance (should you want to); these phones can also transform into remote controls to operate TVs, HDD, DVD-D, and VTR machines.
The saturation point for the Japanese cell phone market is looming desperately close with mobile phone penetration here currently standing close to 70 percent. Shipments of handsets in September sank ten percent according to a report by Japan’s Electronic and Information Technologies Association — the ninth straight month in negative numbers. Cellcos and handset manufacturers are depending on consumers tossing 2G aside and trading up to trendy 3G phones — like DoCoMo’s shiny new 901i series — to bring those numbers back into the black. It should be an interesting holiday season watching Vodafone’s new 3G handsets, DoCoMo 901i 3DX3D models, and KDDI’s Chaku Uta Full music download handsets battle it out for the hearts, wallets, and tapping fingers of Japan’s consumers.
— Gail Nakada