Sony Squeezes Digital Walkman Into Cellphone

Sony Corp. has married its Walkman technology with a cellphone and come up with a handset that will be music to its owner's ears.

The company's latest cellular handset, which is just going on sale in Japan, includes a digital music player which enables it to double as a digital Walkman. Accepting Magic Gate Memory Stick cards, the white version of the memory card system with integrated copy protection, the handset has a special mode that allows for the telephone to be switched off while the music player continues to function.

The new handset is going on sale in Japan in early December and, not surprisingly, is one of the most expensive handsets to hit the market to date, with an average price of around 42,000 yen (US$382). In Japan, where the price of handsets is subsidized by the dealers and carriers, new telephones usually hit the market for between 15,000 and 30,000 yen. When the price of Sony's digital music players, which cost somewhere around 30,000 yen, are considered, the price of the new phone appears more reasonable.

The handset weighs in at 120 grams -- on the heavy side compared to most new telephones which weigh at between 80- to 100 grams, although it packs a lot more technology than competing models. It measures 105 x 50 x 28 millimeters, talk time is put at 100 minutes, standby time is 200 hours and music playback time is 6 hours on a single battery charge. The latter is an hour longer than Sony's new digital Network Walkman E3, which is due on the market soon.

Other features include a 256-color LCD (liquid crystal display) with 120 by 160 pixel resolution, and the ability to store up to 16 ringer melodies in memory. New melodies can also be downloaded at the touch of a button through the wireless Internet service.

The NTT DoCoMo Inc. version supports the company's I-mode wireless Internet service and packet data transmission at up to 9.6k bps (bits per second), while the Au version supports the WAP (wireless application protocol) based EZweb service and packet data transmission at up to 64k bps.

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