NTT DoCoMo Inc. is counting on high-speed service and Japanese technology to compete with Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone.
The nation's top cellphone carrier said Oct. 18 it will release 13 smartphones that run on Google Inc.'s Android operating system for the winter and spring season.
Ryuji Yamada, company president, said nine of the new smartphones will be "fully loaded with functions unique to Japan," from electronic payments to TV viewing.
Those features are unavailable on the new iPhone 4S, handled by rivals KDDI Corp. and Softbank Mobile Corp.
Yamada said DoCoMo's new handsets will be competitive with the iPhone.
DoCoMo will also encourage subscribers to switch to the new Xi service, whose data communication speed is up to 10 times faster than the current service.
If subscribers sign up for the new service and pay an additional 1,480 yen ($19) a month, they will be able to talk with other DoCoMo subscribers in Japan free of charge 24/7.
The option will not be available for users of the current Foma service.
Four new smartphones will be compatible with the Xi service. Subscribers will be able to play games and watch videos more comfortably with the faster service.
DoCoMo will also create the "dmenu" portal site that will enable smartphone users to buy videos, music and electronic books to compete with a similar iPhone service.
Subscribers will be able to pay for purchases with monthly communication charges.
KDDI, which offers the cellphone service under the au brand, has joined Softbank Mobile in offering the latest iPhone model.
Yamada said the pillar of DoCoMo smartphones will be Android models, although he said the iPhone may be later added to its lineup.
He declined to comment on whether the company is negotiating with Apple to handle the iPhone.
As of the end of September, DoCoMo accounted for about 48 percent of cellphone subscriptions, far larger than KDDI's 27.3 percent and Softbank Mobile's 21.8 percent.
But the number of subscribers who switched to rival carriers without changing phone numbers during the four days after the iPhone 4S went on sale increased 2.5 times from the same period the previous month.
DoCoMo will release 22 new cellphone handsets, including 14 smartphones, from November to March. They will be available for between 10,000 yen and 40,000 yen after discounts for a two-year contract.
This article was written by Jun Wakamatsu and Junichiro Nagasaki.
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