The handsets support a new service, available through DoCoMo's I-mode service, called I-Appli, which allows customers to download and run small Java applets. From January 26, two handsets and a total of 38 applets from a variety of content providers will be available, Takeshi Natsuno, executive director of the gateway business department at NTT DoCoMo announced at a Tokyo news conference.
The applets available at launch span the range from information to entertainment and games although, if I-mode is anything to go by, the launch menu may bear little resemblance to future offerings. When DoCoMo launched I-mode ( a service which offers access to e-mail and Internet services via cell phones) in February 1999 it emphasised the ability to check news headlines and conduct stock trades on the move, although as the service has developed entertainment-based content has clearly risen to the top as the most popular service.
I-Appli services at launch include animated clocks featuring Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty characters, stock charting and ticker applications, karaoke, a mapping service and games such as Tetris, Space Invaders and Pac-Man. The applets fall into one of two categories: the stand-alone type which resides in memory, such as a game, and the agent type which needs to connect to a server to provide updated information, such as a stock ticker.
All of the applets are 10KB in size or less and each telephone supporting the service will be able to store at least five downloaded applets in memory. Eyeing their use in financial and business applications, the I-Appli service and new handsets also include support for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption.
At launch two handsets will be available, the F503i from Fujitsu and the P503i from Matsushita Communication Industrial, better known by its Panasonic brand name. The F503i measures 135 by 46 by 15 millimetres, weighs 77 grams and has a battery life of 430 hours on stand-by and continuous talk time of 135 minutes. The P503i has dimensions of 128 by 45 by 17 millimetres, weighs 74 grams and offers a stand-by battery life of 400 hours and continuous talk time of 140 minutes.
Handsets from other manufacturers are expected to appear in the near future. At the Telecom Asia exhibition in Hong Kong in November 2000, NTT DoCoMo was demonstrating the S503i handset from Sony Corp., although a spokeswoman for the operator was unable to provide launch details for the handset at Thursday's news conference.