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HTC rejigs smartphone with TV, WiMAX, cute email for Japanese market

The mobile maker has teamed with operator KDDI to develop phones for the finicky Japanese market

HTC announced Friday a smartphone designed specifically for the Japanese market, compatible with the country's TV broadcasts for mobiles, touch payment system, and decorative emails.

The company's "HTC J" phone will be available from mobile phone operator KDDI, the country's second largest, from late next month. It also supports a nationwide WiMAX network, to which it can tether up to eight other devices. The phone is based on the "HTC One S" and shares the same basic specs, including a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, Android 4.0, and advanced camera and audio features.

The handset is the first to come out of a partnership that HTC and KDDI officially announced in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, aimed at developing phones specifically for the Japanese market. Japanese consumers are accustomed to features such as "One Seg," TV broadcasts for mobiles, or using their phones as touch cards to pay for train tickets or snacks, but the recent wave of smartphones are designed abroad and lack the supporting hardware.

The companies hope the agreement gives KDDI a way to differentiate its smartphones from those of competitors, while providing an advantage for HTC in a crowded but lucrative market.

KDDI was late to embrace such handsets compared to local rivals and has scrambled to catch up, becoming the second local carrier to offer Apple's iPhone and launching ad campaigns around its smartphone offerings.

Support for decorative email is a major concern for many Japanese consumers, who often pack their messages with tiny characters and motifs. The majority of phones in the country follow the "Deco-mail" specification from NTT DoCoMo, the country's largest carrier, that defines a set of pictographs for embedding into mobile emails.

It has long been adopted by other carriers in the country, but is not fully supported by foreign-made handsets like the iPhone, although apps have been developed to send and receive mails under the specification.


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