Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Japan's Softbank announces first cell phone equipped with built-in 'geiger counter'

It's been over a year since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan and created a nuclear disaster the likes of which had only before been seen at Chernobyl.  If you think that the residents of Japan feel safe, you'd be wrong, as consumers in Japan continue to ask for reassurance, and on Tuesday wireless operator Softbank delivered something to them, a smartphone that can measure radiation.

The new phone is a model in Softbank's Pantone series.  The phone is equipped with a sensor that enables end users to see - at the touch of a button - the amount of radiation they are being exposed to.  It's the first cell phone with such an integrated sensor.

Since the Fukushima disaster, companies have released mobile radiation detectors that work with smartphones, such as Scosche’s iPhone-compatible RDTX, which plugs into the iPhone's dock connector. The Pantone 5 107SH has no need for such accouterments.

The device will go on sale in July.  In addition to detection of current levels of radiation, it is capable of the exposure level in a location-based record.  The accuracy of the device isn't that great, however: it is accurate only to within 20 percent, although Softbank said it could detect gamma rays with the range of 0.05-9.99 microsieverts per hour.

Pantone phones are generally colorful, and this one is no different. The Pantone 5 is available in eight colors: black, white, purple, yellow, blue, orange (but not burnt orange), and two - yes two - types of pink. The phone comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with a Sharp UI skin, and sports a 3.7-inch, 854×480 LCD screen.

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In addition, the phone carries a 1.4GHz processor and a 4MP rear-facing camera.  In other words, the phone is relatively prosaic aside from the geiger counter-type functionality.

There's no word yet on price, but if the device is comparable to a similarly specced smartphone, it will probably sell well, even if there is some premium attached to the new feature.  Softbank is Japan's No. 3 mobile phone operator.

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