With little fanfare and no press conference, NTT DoCoMo has released five new 3G FOMA 901iS FeliCa-enabled handsets into the digital world: D901iS (Mitsubishi), F901iS (Fujitsu), P901iS (Panasonic), N901iS (NEC) and SH901iS (Sharp). All have certain features in common with other 901i models, including music players, “3D Sound,” Deco-Mail to decorate email, G-GUIDE interactive TV guide and recording programmer (see the .pdf for full specs). New features include a 4-megapixel recorded resolution camera for the D901iS and a full Web browser on the N901iS. The company says that the 901iS-series is DoCoMo’s first in which all models are equipped for mobile-wallet functions, but the five handsets actually do a lot more than drain virtual bank accounts. The pre-installed Adobe Reader LE, for example, enables 901iS phones to view PDF files downloaded from i-mode sites. The application includes access to all basic PDF functions including scrolling, paging, text searches, bookmarks and page rotation and users can easily email files, dial a number or navigate to a Web link in the file. But wait, there’s more…
Insiders (Ummm… that would be us!) have been expecting a spring launch event to announce more handsets for their current 3G line-up, but we didn’t expect there to be no presser. After all, even the lowly 700i-series had a press conference all to themselves!!
Given the large amount of personal data on mobile phones — Japanese are literally carrying their life in their pocket — security has to be an important consideration for DoCoMo these days. The 901iS-series can be programmed to automatically lock if left unused for a specified period or can be locked manually with the push of a button. Like other 901i models, the five new handsets are equipped with a remote locking function and security scanning for virus mail and websites.
D901iS finally brings 4-megapixel recorded resolution to a DoCoMo handset. The miniSD memory card is a must-have for storing and playing back all those mega-large photos users will take. This handset has a 2.4-inch hybrid screen that splits between the main display and a semi-transparent information bar for scrolling through the calendar, events, memos and new messages. Its Smart Menu shows frequently used functions in larger type.
N901iS is equipped with a full browser to view Web pages plus surf i-mode’s mobile Web world. Web pages can be scaled down to fit the 2.5-inch screen or viewed in a full-scale scrollable layout. NEC’s Neuropointer trackball provides full 360-degree control of the screen, plus the business-suit exterior hides some fun-loving hardware. The handset’s emoticon engine automatically analyzes text for key words then pastes in an emoticon or pictogram to suit the mood of incoming messages. Users can also assign flag icons to specific words. The N901iS comes with Dragon Quest II (Part 1) pre-installed with graphics especially updated for cell-phone play. Gamers can also download Part 2 of the game for free from the i-mode site; the camera records at 2-megapixels max.
F901iS boasts extra security; the phonebook, email and call log lock automatically when the handset is shut. Users can listen to downloaded music even when the handset is closed with easy access to volume controls and track selection via side keys. Track titles are shown on the sub display. It has an unexceptional 2-megapixel camera but the video camera captures 30 frames per second in QVGA resolution.
P901iS by Panasonic has two LCD screens: trip the light fantastic on the back screen where light effects do much more than highlight standby mode or incoming calls (… So yesterday). The back screen lights are configured to reflect each of the phone’s 11 interchangeable custom jacket designs. By downloading the Dot Creator Java i-appli, users can also customize light effects themselves. Three phone colors plus the 11 custom jackets set off light effects for 36 possible combinations. Make like a mobile Chameleon and use it to reflect moods; comes with Final Fantasy II pre-installed.
SH901iS from Sharp is for people whose mobile priorities are audio and visual fun. The handset’s LCD screen uses the same technology as Sharp’s Aquos LCD TVs for a clear picture; 3D sound shoots out two front and two side speakers. An optional AV cable connects the handset to AV equipment (TV/stereo) for recording directly onto the mini memory card or for playback; features a 3.16-megapixel camera.
The company has sold more than 3.34 million FeliCa cell phones to date and approximately 20,000 stores offer mobile-wallet services nationwide. KDDI and Vodafone have joined the FeliCa camp and signed on to offer mobile wallet services of their own in the near future. The competition is coming and DoCoMo seems determined to secure its place as FeliCa provider of choice by sheer force of numbers if nothing else.
It would seem the carriers’ gloves are coming off in a fight for 3G subscribers and mobile-wallet related services. Tokyo is definitely heating up for another sweltering mobile summer. Will that be cash? Or … FeliCa it!
– Gail Nakada