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When Hitachi left the U.S. wireless phone market in the early 1990s, it was selling analog phones to retailers through the Hitachi division that also sold audio, video and mobile electronics.
Now, in reentering a vastly different marketplace, Hitachi has begun selling a third-generation CDMA 1X phone through Chicago-based Hitachi High Technologies America, a Hitachi Ltd. Japan division that sells chips and measurement tools.
In another change, the division is selling the phone directly to carrier Sprint PCS, which was to begin offering it at the end of September for $299.
The launch of Hitachi's color-screen co-branded P300 also marks the company's first wireless foray outside the Japan market in years, said Kenny Hasegawa, manager of digital media systems sales at Hitachi Ltd. in Tokyo. The company will focus on the U.S. market for now because, along with Japan and Korea, it is one of the biggest CDMA markets capable of supporting Hitachi's focus on higher-end phones.
The China and South American CDMA markets, in contrast, are predominantly lower-end markets, he noted.
Hitachi currently has no plans to market phones to other U.S. carriers, Hasegawa said.
Additional models are under consideration, he added.
Sprint will take the lead in marketing and promoting the phone, and Hitachi will assist Sprint, Hasegawa said. As a result, like some other phone makers, Hitachi will not work directly with retailers to promote the phone.
"The Sprint relationship is our primary focus," he said.
The phone will support all of the services offered by Sprint's PCS Vision 1X network, Hasegawa said. The gpsOne-enabled phone offers features such as POP3 e-mail client, 120 by 162-pixel Thin Film Diode (TFD) color screen, eight text lines and two additional lines for icons and soft-key names, and Java-based J2ME technology to download, store and run games and productivity applications. Flash-memory capacity is 1MB.
The color screen displays built-in and downloaded color games, as well as color pictures received by e-mail or downloaded from WAP sites. The pictures can be used as screensavers.
Unusual features include:
picture caller ID, which displays the picture of the person who's calling;
seven-color caller ID, which identifies callers by a back-panel LED's color and blinking rate;
and an optical sensor that automatically boosts the loudness of the ringer when the phone is inside a briefcase, purse or pocket.
Other features include built-in voice dialing, speakerphone, polyphonic sound and USB connectivity for linking to a laptop via Sprint's $69.99 PC Connection Kit. The internal phone book stores 200 names, with up to five numbers per name for a total of 1,000 numbers.
With a standard 1,000-milliamp lithium-ion battery, the phone weighs 3.6 ounces and delivers 3.5 hours of continuous talk time in 1X mode or 10 days of standby time.
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