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Japan, Korea Leads Mobile Phone Innovation

Japanese and South Korean consumers are early adopters of new technologies, and today, nearly 14 percent of all mobile handsets in South Korea already support Digital Mobile Broadcast television.

This high percentage is just one indicator of the continuing flow of innovation coming from Korean and Japanese handset designers, a trend explored in a new study from ABI Research on the topic of mobile phone R&D initiatives.

According to senior analyst Andy Bae, based in Seoul, camera- and mobile TV-enabled phones are expected to drive new growth momentum over the next few years in both countries' handset markets.

In 2006, approximately 75 percent of all handsets in Japan and 52 percent in South Korea include cameras. "Two megapixel camera phones with autofocus and zoom functions have started to outpace 1.3 megapixel models in Japan and South Korea," says Bae. "Two and three megapixel phones will be mainstream by 2008. Five (and greater) megapixel models will dominate after 2010."

"Japan and South Korea have launched HSDPA and CDMA 1xEV-DO Rev. A services this year," Bae says. "This technologically advanced environment has spurred mobile vendors to develop premium and high-end handsets to support video call and music track download services."

In Japan, the most popular new services are "Chaku Uta" music downloads to mobile handsets. HSPDA services, with their broadband data rates, provide customers with very satisfactory music download experiences. Accordingly, Japanese vendors have continuously expanded music phones lines with Bluetooth headphones, shuttle controls keys, and key pads.

Common to both countries is the popularity of mobile TV-enabled handsets. In South Korea, vendors are focusing on development and marketing of T-DMB versus S-DMB phones, due to T-DMB's brighter future prospects.

Displays are evolving as well. Japanese and South Korean manufacturers will incorporate cutting-edge display innovations such as 16:9 ratios, 2.5-inch AM OLED displays using system-on-panel, and LTPS TFT, the efficiency of which can decrease the number of circuits and components, and therefore, power consumption.

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