KPN and NTT DoCoMo launch SnapCam in Europe

Dutch mobile phone operator KPN Mobile NV on Thursday introduced the SnapCam, a small digital camera that can e-mail pictures via a mobile phone.

The SnapCam, to be offered in the Netherlands as well as in Germany and Belgium by KPN Mobile's subsidiaries, was picked from the product portfolio of Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo Inc., which owns 15 percent of KPN Mobile. The device is targeted at a niche of people who are willing to pay to have fun with mobile devices, KPN said.

In Japan the local version of the SnapCam, the Camesse Petit, was introduced in February 2000 and has since been rendered somewhat obsolete by the introduction of mobile telephones with built-in cameras. The product is only a moderate success in Japan, a DoCoMo spokesman said.

"Yes we are trailing the Japanese. We need to gradually make users understand these new innovations," said Ludolf Rasterhoff, director of business line Mass Market at KPN Mobile, to explain why KPN introduced the SnapCam instead of a more advanced device.

Weighing about 180 grams, the SnapCam is just a bit larger than a pack of cigarettes. It takes pictures with a resolution of 320-by-240 pixels that are stored in the JPEG format. The pictures can be reviewed and edited on a small color screen using a stylus. The camera can store about 90 pictures, but the storage capacity can be expanded with a flash memory card, KPN said.

After editing, the camera is connected to a phone using infrared. Sending an image to an e-mail address or another SnapCam user takes about a minute, according to KPN. A user has to pay the regular airtime rate, and transferring pictures will only work with a KPN Mobile subscription.

In addition to its camera functionality, the SnapCam can also be used to send and receive text e-mail messages. The gadget is also GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) ready, allowing for much faster data transfers with a GPRS handset, KPN said.

The SnapCam, manufactured by Toshiba Corp., will be available in September and costs 879 guilders (US$365). A package including a Nokia Corp. 8210 handset and a mobile service agreement costs 699 guilders. These prices are set for the Netherlands, but are a good indication for the prices in Germany and Belgium, KPN said.

KPN's subsidiary in Germany is E-Plus GmbH, in Belgium KPN owns KPN Orange Belgium NV/SA.

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