By Tony Henning
DoCoMo announced in April its intention to launch DCMX consumer credit services via iD, DoCoMo’s brand and platform for mobile credit cards, and this week the carrier delivered on its promise by releasing three handsets with DCMX. Users of Osaifu-Keitai (mobile wallet) phones in the 902iS series will be able to choose from two plans to make highly secure purchases from small to large amounts using their phones as DoCoMo-issued credit cards. Making a purchase is as simple as waving one’s phone in front of a dedicated iD reader/writer in a store, with no signature required. Payments will be billed together with the user’s monthly DoCoMo phone charges. There will be no membership fee to use the service. DCMX mini service offers a monthly credit line of ¥10,000 ($88), while credit lines from ¥200,000 ($1,765), as well as cash advances, will be available under the full DCMX service. Purchases over ¥10,000 will require the customer to enter a four-digit password.
Users under age 20 will require a guardian’s consent, and must apply at a DoCoMo Shop, accompanied by a guardian. Customers will be able to use their mobile phones to confirm remaining credit balances. For security, DoCoMo Osaifu-Keitai phones can be locked remotely if misplaced or stolen. The user will merely need to call their misplaced/stolen phone from a registered phone number. Or, using the Omakase Lock service, the user will be able to call DoCoMo to request their phone be locked. Users can also set their phones to require a password each time before the DCMX service is used.
The three new DCMX phones are the D902iS from Mitsubishi, the N902iS from NEC, and the P902iS from Panasonic. In addition to the new credit card and now-familiar mobile wallet functions (there are more than three million Osaifu-Keitai in Japan), the handsets offer the usual rich smorgasbord of features found in Japanese phones.
The slider model D902iS has a 4MP CCD auto-focus main camera (2MP Super CCD Honeycomb sensor from Fuji Photo Film) with 28x, 65-step digital zoom, anti-shake technology and a sliding lens cover that activates the camera. There’s also a CIF (288 x 352-pixel) CMOS sub-camera for video calls, support for miniSD removable media, and a 2.8-inch, 240 x 400-pixel, 262,144-color TFT LCD that offers a mode that makes it difficult for others to see the display. In addition to the security features noted above, the 110 x 49 x 19.9-mm, 124-gram D902iS offers “voice certification,” which recognizes a security keyword in the user’s voice to unlock the wallet functions.
The N902iS — a 104 x 51 x 23-mm, 114-gram clamshell model — also sports a 4MP CCD auto-focus main camera (again produced by a 2MP Super CCD Honeycomb sensor from Fuji) with anti-shake technology (“super digital hand blurring revision function”). There’s also a VGA CMOS sub-camera for video calling, support for miniSD, and a 2.5-inch, 240 x 345-pixel, 242,144-color TFT LCD main display and a 1-inch, 120 x 90-pixel, 65,536-color TFT LCD sub-display. The N902iS has two additional features worth noting that utilize the handset’s cameras. The first is a face recognition function that can be used to control access to the mobile wallet functions and other protected applications. We assume the technology was supplied by Neven Vision, which supplied the same functionality for the Sharp SH902i introduced last October. The second feature utilizes image recognition technology from Evolution Robotics to identify products and locate them in an online store. The combination of DCMX credit card services, 4MP camera, and image recognition offered by the N902iS would make it possible to instantly buy a watch in the window of a store that is closed, for example, or a piece of clothing worn by a model in an advertisement. Companies such as Amazon and Tower Records will make their products available through the service.
The P902iS — another clamshell model, measuring 106 x 49 x 21 mm and 109 grams — has a 2MP Maicovicon primary camera with 12.5x, 31-step digital zoom and a CIF CMOS sub-camera. There’s support for miniSD, a 2.4-inch, 240 x 320-pixel, 262,144-color TFT LCD main display, and a 1.0-inch, 4,096-color, STN LCD sub-display as well as a 7 x 7 dot matrix of white LEDs for displaying various information and custom lighting effects. The P902iS is also equipped with an advanced face authentication security function that enables the user to lock the IC card and PIM functions in “Double Security” mode together with the handset PIN number. There’s also a timer function that locks protected applications after a specified interval when you close the handset. The Panasonic phone also has Bluetooth, still relatively rare for Japanese phones, most of which have Infrared. The P902iS is compatible with DoCoMo’s Chaku-Uta Full service enabling users to download full music tracks from i-mode sites and comes pre-installed with ‘2006 FIFA world cup German conference’ i-applications.
The advanced features and functionality of the 902iS series highlight once again what a backward, third world country we are in the U.S. as far as mobile phones are concerned. It’s been five and a half years since camera-phones were introduced in Japan and three and half since they were introduced in the U.S., but we’re no closer to closing that two-year gap than we were in 2002. If anything, the gap seems to be widening. We’re nowhere near having mobile phones with this kind of functionality. Sigh.