Vodafone KK Gets Attention with Sexy New 3G Handset
By Eric Lin, Fri Feb 06 23:30:00 GMT 2004

Building on the success of their v601 handset line, Vodafone KK (Japan) are set to release their first 3G phone from Sharp, and the punters are already excited. The V801SH has the look and feel (as well as the interface) of its successful predecessor, but is a GSM / GPRS / W-CDMA model.

The V801SH from Sharp (Vodafone adds letters to the end of a model to signify a manufacturer, DoCoMo inserts them at the beginning.) is slightly larger than its V601SH cousin (for PDC networks), but it is comparable in size to the new highly-anticipated SH900i for the FOMA network. It is also draws a great deal of its design and features from the V601SH as well, but leaves out TV reception and downgrades the camera from 2mp to 1mp. What it offers over any FOMA handset is GSM / GPRS, adding global connectivity, in the same appealing size and shape as other modern 3G phones.

Like FOMA before them, Vodafone have suffered poor adoption of 3G, signing less than 112,000 subscribers (and that includes 2G GSM users) so far, according to Nikkei BP. Vodafone's initial handset offerings were equally clunky and unappealing. By sexing up their phones while increasing coverage, FOMA subscribers doubled in six months. By copying the most popular handset on their PDC network, Vodafone hopes to replicate the success of that phone as well as replicate the recent success of DoCoMo's FOMA.

Nikkei BP certainly thinks that the popularity of the V601SH should mean good news for the V801SH and, in turn, Vodafone's 3G network. I couldn't agree more. We've already seen that new handsets helped DoCoMo, and it's likely that provided the service is priced fairly, more appealing hardware will help Vodafone as well. If we are right and this trend continues, European carriers will also need to take note and rethink their strategies. It seems they'll need to worry less about developing or pushing 3G services for launch, instead devoting more energy to amassing stock of the sexiest 3G handsets they can find.

Update:After more research on Vodafone's Japanese language website, I discovered a link to an English page with Vodafone KK's current 3G lineup. The Sharp model is not the only new sleek handset in the new V801 lineup. There is also a new model from Sanyo which is about the same size as the Sharp, but with a slide-out keypad and two VGA cameras instead of one 1MP, for making video calls.