Vodafone's FM Handset Launched
Vodafone's FM Handset Launched

Vodafone's FM Handset Launched

Vodafone's FM Handset Launched

Wireless watchers will be aware that the number of FM radio keitai seems to be proliferating. Just this week, KDDI announced that its latest batch of new offerings offer the FM option. Now Vodafone K.K. is tuning into the possibilities with the the V401SA, the carrier’s first handset with a dedicated FM tuner. But does this mean FM will be an optional extra — a bit like having fins on your PDC Cadillac — or will FM become an indispensible, must-have feature for keitai in Japan?

Vodafone’s take on the new FM-tuner handset is that if it is going to have radio, it’s going to do it right, according to Matthew Nicholson, the carrier’s PR representative.

The V401SA super slider yields an approx. 30-hour listening time after a full charge, a considerable improvement over the V401T by Toshiba that was released in April this year, mainly because the SA is not wedded to a power-guzzling analog TV tuner.

The V401T is also capable of receiving FM broadcasts, but, of course, dies after about an hour of use.

For FM listening alone, continues Nicholson, the V401SA does represent an advancement as the sound is better (stereo as opposed to mono with the V401T). BGM listening is possible while composing mails, Web browsing etc., and a “Now on Air” function delivers artist and song data in real time, Nicholson adds.

So how about the issue of FM being a bit of fun, or a must-have connection with the ether?

“I wouldn’t say that FM radio tuners will be a standard function on all handsets, but multimedia functions are becoming increasingly important,” Nicholson writes, adding, just to make sure that he doesn’t forget the other bells and whistles, “We have handsets with music players, TV tuners, FM tuners, etc.”

Of course, digital radio is a core part of KDDI/au’s strategy of slapping as many value-adding services into its handsets as possible. With digital terrestrial broadcasting coming soon as well, DoCoMo could well make digital radio a requirement.

And now the juicy bit: Whenever we contact Vodafone, our next question is, with the network in place, where are the new 3G phones, bless’em!?

To which Nicholson replies, “No specific dates to announce the upcoming 3G handsets, but we can say we are targeting the 2004 Christmas quarter. Appreciate your continued patience on this one!” (We’ll be patient. What about the revenue-generating customers? – Ed.)

Leaving aside Vodafone’s huge European issues, many here at least initially took the Japan deployment delay (nominally to wait for the latest W-CDMA standards) at face value. When Green admitted last year that the October 2003 rollout was hit by technical problems, WWJ felt a lot of gloomy currents circulating around the Vodafone iceberg.

Anyway, we at WWJ are practically falling over oursleves to get our paws on them, and we certainly hope Vodafone K.K. will give us the chance to as soon as possible.

— The Editors

Web Updated July 16/19:

Darryl Green’s May 25 announcement this year stated that Vodafone’s launch of 3G convergence phones would be in the Christmas quarter, so there seem to be no major further delays in 3G rollout. The handsets, at least, should be in the shops by Christmas at the latest.