Cellphones from the East

While beige Zack Morris–brick cell phones might have been de rigeur two decades ago, today’s phone had better be sleek sexy and functional – which nobody does better than Japan and Korea. Both of these nations embrace the idea that a cell phone is more than a device – it’s an extension of one’s personality. The following phones fit the fashionability index to a T – but we’ll be lucky if they’re available stateside in a few years.

Text by Robin Liss

N702iD by NTT DoCoMo / NTT DoCoMo, one of Japan’s largest cell phone carriers, can’t be accused of not giving you color variety with the N702i, designed by Kashiwa Sato, a designer who gained notoriety for branding a famous J-pop group. The mobile comes in red, black, silver, and white, while its smooth and shiny outside finish makes it especially suave. The handset’s slender size doesn’t limit its features: the phone has a one-megapixel camera, and it can record video and play music. www.nttdocomo.com

W33SA by Sanyo / The W33SA, made by Sanyo but sold by KDDI AU, features a two-way hinge design that allows the phone’s LCD to open up like a normal flip phone. You can also swivel the LCD display around and fold it back against the number pad – perfect for watching TV. This feature was introduced because Japan started a cell phone TV service that transmits incredibly clear video. The picture has far better resolution than anything offered by U.S. carriers. www.au.kddi.com

NEON by KDDI AU / Japanese cell phone carrier KDDI AU is especially proud of the aesthetic appeal of their phones and even has a special design center in Tokyo where they feature concept models. This neon phone by KDDI AU has an interesting hinge which gives the phone a futuristic look. The front of the phone appears to be blank and faceless; however, it has a red LED display that shines through. The boxy shape, combined with its unique hinge and hidden LED, is nothing if not stylish. www.au.kddi.com

Pantech C300 / The C300 is the only phone in this month’s lineup that is actually available in the U.S. It has a distinctive square body design that will stick out in a crowd of RAZR clones. Although many of the phones sold in the U.S. are from Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG, what is shipped over here is often a dumbed-down ugly stepchild of its prouder Korean model. The Pantech C300 managed to escape such a fate, appearing in Cingular stores in the U.S. more or less intact with the world’s (currently) smallest camera flip phone. www.cingular.com


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