NTT DoCoMo to sell wristphone

NTT DoCoMo has unveiled a cellular telephone that takes the form of a wristwatch and plans to put the device on sale in Japan shortly, the company said Wednesday.

The Wristomo device looks like a large wristwatch with a thick, firm strap that snaps around the wrist from each side and meets in the middle, on the opposite side of the wrist to the phone. On the end of one of these firm straps is the phone's microphone and on the end of the other is the earpiece. When making a call a user takes the wristphone off, unfolds the two straps and holds the entire device much like a regular cellular telephone.

This makes it different from prototype wrist phones that companies such as Samsung Electronics and Motorola have shown recently. Most of those devices use a separate ear piece and microphone or require the user to speak into a microphone mounted in the wrist-worn device.

The wristphone, which is made by Japan's Seiko Instruments, has a small monochrome LCD (liquid crystal display) which is used to display the time while not in use and acts as a conventional cellular telephone display while the phone functions are being used. There are nine keys for navigation and other functions on the outer side of one of the straps.

The Wristomo works on NTT DoCoMo's PHS (Personal Handyphone System) network, which is a less popular and lower-power mobile phone network than the company's PDC (Personal Digital Communications) or WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) networks. The company said it chose to make the wristphone for the PHS network because its lower power has enabled the development of smaller components.

The device supports data transmission at up to 64K bps (bits per second) and can access i-Mode content. Its built-in scheduler and date book will also synchronize with Microsoft's Outlook.

It measures 171.5 millimeters by 40.4 millimeters by 18.5 millimeters and weighs 113 grams, said the company. Talk time is 120 minutes and standby time is around 200 hours.

NTT DoCoMo said the wristphone is scheduled to go on sale in Japan soon although it wouldn't name a date. The company was similarly coy on the question of price saying just that it would be somewhere under ¥50,000 (US$417).

The Wristomo isn't NTT DoCoMo's first wristphone but it will be the first commercial model. In 1998 the company developed a wristphone for use by officials at the Nagano Olympic Games. That model never reached the public and, while the Wristomo will be available via the Internet, NTT DoCoMo isn't expecting it to be a best-seller. The company has set a sales target of a few thousand models and is viewing its launch as something of a little test marketing.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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