Softbank lets 3-D steal iPhone show

by Kazuaki Nagata

Softbank Corp. unveiled a winter-spring handset collection Thursday featuring a wider lineup of non-Apple smart phones, including models that allow three-dimensional images to be viewed without special glasses.

“It won’t change the situation that the king of the smart phone is the iPhone,” said Softbank President Masayoshi Son, reminding reporters in Tokyo that the Apple gadget commands about 80 percent of the smart phone market in Japan and that Softbank plans to continue marketing it aggressively.

“However, there are customers who want something other than the iPhone and iPad. Softbank will not skip our work to those customers,” Son said.

Softbank, the exclusive provider of the iPhone in Japan, plans to release seven new smart phone models powered by Android 2.2, Google’s quickly growing operating system.

Among these, the Galapagos 003SH and 005SH, two 3-D-ready models made by Sharp Corp., were strongly pushed during the new product announcement.

The 3.8-inch touch screen handsets allow 3-D images to be viewed without special glasses and boast a built-in 9.6-megapixel camera that shoots 3-D photos.

The main difference between the two models is the 005SH’s physical keyboard.

The handsets come preinstalled with 3-D content such as movie trailers and games, including “Biohazard.”

The Galapagos models, scheduled to go on sale in early December, are also equipped with e-wallet, one-seg TV and infrared data communication functions.

Other smart phones at the news conference included the Streak, a 5-inch tablet device from Dell Inc., and the Desire HD handset from Taiwan-based HTC Corp., which features a 4.3-inch multitouch screen.

The company also said it plans to launch the Softbank Bookstore, an e-book site for the Galapagos models that will later be expanded to accommodate other models.

Japan has seen competition for smart phone sales heat up this year, with an increasing number of carriers jumping in to claim a stake in the rapidly growing market.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. recently released Samsung’s smart phone flagship, the Galaxy S, and plans to announce several more models next week.

KDDI’s au, which has been falling behind the competition, recently unveiled a new lineup that puts strong emphasis on smart phone models in a bid to catch up.