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IT'S A CAMERA, A STEREO, AND A TRAIN TICKET:
Multifunction Cell Phones Arrive
February 7, 2001
Look At the Phone and Say "Cheese!"
One reason for the appearance of phones with camera functions is that in May 2001 NTT DoCoMo will become the first company in the world to provide a next-generation cell phone service--called FOMA, or Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access--which will greatly accelerate communication speed. Its main characteristic is that it will enable real-time, smooth transmission of moving images and other data up to 200 times faster than the present method. The aim of NTT DoCoMo's rivals appears to be to take the lead over this third-generation service by supplying image services through current cell phones before the next-generation service becomes established. NTT DoCoMo is already conducting research, however, on fourth-generation wireless technology, and aims to launch even more sophisticated multimedia services in about 2010.
NTT DoCoMo launched a cell phone that can play music at the end of 2000. The Sony-made phone contains a Walkman (personal stereo) function that enables users to play music downloaded from a computer or audio equipment onto the phone's built-in IC memory stick while at the same time enjoying the i-mode Internet service. Some companies have also begun music distribution services using the PHS (Personal Handyphone System) data communication function. Under this setup, users can receive music sent by the record company on their PHS and download it onto a memory device plugged into the PHS at a cost of 150 yen to 350 yen (1.30 to 3.04 U.S. dollars at 115 yen to the dollar) per song. A song lasting four or five minutes can be downloaded in about 10 minutes, and the quality is said to be on a par with that of a CD. NTT DoCoMo is scheduled to offer the same service on its next-generation cell phone.
Other new functions on some cell phones include a karaoke service, by which music is played while still images or text are displayed on the cell phone's screen, and a service by which music is played alongside moving images, such as movie information.
A Phone that Is Also a Train Ticket
There are also plans to enable cell phones to take the place of electronic money at station kiosks and convenience stores near stations and to serve as substitutes for movie theater tickets. While there are moves toward commercialization of a system by which cell phones would serve as tickets by displaying relevant information on their screens, the use of an IC chip would be a first. JR East is already renovating station ticket gates toward introducing IC-fitted commuter passes by the end of 2001, and conveniently the new system under development would be able to use these new gates.
Copyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.