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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

TECH_JAPAN

GADGETS

Japan gets new Android gadgets


I expect you've heard about as much as you can take regarding Apple's third-generation iPad over the past few weeks. It's an undeniably improved offering over the iPad 2, which itself is now a tempting buy at its new discounted price. But while the iPad is still the clear leader in the tablet space, there are some unique alternatives out there that are worth a look, particularly here in Japan.

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I've previously mentioned 7-inch offerings by Panasonic and Sharp, examples of a smaller form factor that could potentially prove more popular in Japan, as they can be held with one hand on a crowded train. There's another such tablet available in Japan this month, from a company called Mobile in Style, a Japanese subsidiary of China's Kingsoft. It's called the eden Tab, and it's a relatively low-cost Android alternative that is far more portable than most of its competitors. The 7-inch device weighs a mere 330 grams, which is less than half the weight of the new third-gen iPad (662 grams).

The hardware specs are, as you might expect, modest, with 16 GB of storage (upgradable via an SD card slot), 1 GB of DDR2 RAM and a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor. It runs on the Android 2.3 operating system, although its website says that an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) update is on the way. It has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, as well as a 2-megapixel cam on the front.

The eden Tab is currently only available in a Wi-Fi model, although a 3G model is said to be coming in April, so stay tuned to Mobile in Style's website (www.edentab.jp) for that. The current Wi-Fi model can be purchased for ¥29,800 via the company's online store.

Of course, at that price, it is tempting to go for a 16 GB iPad 2 (currently priced at ¥34,800) or even a Fujitsu Arrows LTE tablet, which you can find for about ¥38,000. It's a pretty untested brand, and while I have yet to get my hands on one, it's good to see that there's a 14-day money-back guarantee for customers who take a chance on it. But if portability and cost are high priorities, the eden Tab might be an interesting buy.

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This month also witnesses DoCoMo's first two Android smartphones under its Disney Mobile on DoCoMo brand, an interesting collaboration between the carrier and Walt Disney Japan.

The first is the P-05D, an intriguing smartphone manufactured by Panasonic — with almost the same hardware specs as the company's P-04D handset, released on March 29. It has a very thin profile, measuring 7.8 mm at its slimmest point, and weighs only 103 grams. Like many Japanese smartphones these days, it is waterproof, and has a large 4.3-inch display. Under the hood there's a 1.0 GHz dual-core processor, as well as 1 GB of RAM. For now it's running Android 2.3 (with an upgrade to 4.0 likely coming later), and it has an 8-megapixel camera.

Panasonic's business, as you may have heard, has been struggling of late, and the European counterpart of the P-04D (named the Eluga) is perhaps the company's best candidate in the smartphone wars, with the company betting that customers will value the sleek form and design of the handset.

The Disney-branded P-05D version might well appeal to those who value function and appearance — but most of all, it's aimed at those who are bonkers about Mickey Mouse and chums. The Disney theme features in the design of the user interface and of course the outer design, which includes a very cute Mickey "home" button. The phone is available in black and white versions, although there are customizable Disney phone jackets if you'd like a splash of color.

As for the other smartphone under the Disney Mobile on DoCoMo brand, Fujitsu's F-08D has similar specs, but it's slightly larger than its Panasonic counterpart. It does come in hot pink though, and the interface includes great Disney themes. There are also fun Disney emoji icons that you can use in messages to friends.

According to DoCoMo, both handsets will also bring access to "special customer benefits" at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, as the carrier is an official sponsor there. On a related note, DoCoMo will soon be celebrating its 20th anniversary, with a special campaign to be held this year in conjunction with Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan. So keep an eye out for that as well.

Rick Martin is an editor at TechInAsia.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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