Japan's Softbank to offer world's first phone with radiation detection

The new handset, made by Sharp, is part of the summer lineup from Softbank, Japan's No. 3 carrier

Japan's Softbank will launch a phone with a built in radiation detector, the world's first, it said Tuesday.

The latest model in the company's popular, bare-bones Pantone line, built by Sharp, has a specially designed chip that can detect gamma radiation in the air at doses of between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour. The phone then uses its GPS to place readings on a map. Due to go on sale in July, it runs Android 4.0 and features standard functionality for Japanese handsets, including mobile TV, touch payments and infrared transmission.

Over a year after an earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns at a nuclear plant on Japan's northeast coast, radiation remains a major concern across the country. All of Japan's nuclear reactors have been shut down for inspections, with most local communities against restarting them, even with the approaching annual surge in power demand during the summer months.

"I received many tweets asking for some way to detect radiation" after the disaster, said Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son at a press conference in Tokyo. "So I decided, 'let's do it.'"

The phone is the fifth in Softbank's Pantone line, which features budget models that come in a wide variety of colors. The line started out with feature phones and has now expanded to smartphones.

(See footage of the phone and other offerings from Softbank's summer lineup here.)

Softbank also announced a new modem for its high-speed data network, which it says will provide downloads at up to 110M bps, faster than many wired connections today. The modem, about the size of a deck of cards, also features a battery that provides about seven hours of connection time. It is due to go on sale in September or later, and will run on Softbank's young AXGP network, which will compete with LTE networks from rivals.

The company's AXGP network uses an advanced version of an older Japanese standard, Personal Handy-phone System (PHS). Softbank has said it is "highly compatible" with TD-LTE, a Chinese standard also know as LTE TDD, which is growing in popularity throughout Asia.

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