Kyocera Sets Camera Phone

Kyocera is looking to make a splash in the push-to-talk arena.

Kyocera Wireless Corp. is positioning itself for a strong 2004 through new products, technologies and partnerships.

The San Diego company is planning a number of new products early this year, including a camera-enabled phone and PTT (push-to-talk) software support, according to company officials.

In the next few months, Kyocera plans to introduce a cell phone that includes a megapixel camera that is integral rather than incidental to the device, officials said.

Kyocera is also easing into the PTT space. Late last month it linked with Alltel Corp., which launched its Touch2Talk service using the Kyocera 3250.

At least one observer, however, was not bullish on PTT. "Push-to-talk was much more useful to us when voice minutes were much higher [in cost]," said Christopher Bell, chief technology officer of the People2People Group Inc., a media services company in Boston. "Now I find the demand for PTT features to be drastically lower than four to five years ago, when it was a major differentiator for Nextel [Communications Inc.]."

Nevertheless, Kyocera is moving forward with plans to release PTT versions of the companys consumer-brand Blade, Phantom and Rave phones, as well as an enterprise offering, officials said.

Kyocera is also working closely with Qualcomm Inc. on Qualcomms BrewChat, a PTT service designed for third-generation Code Division Multiple Access networks. BrewChat is due this quarter, but U.S. availability is contingent upon Nextels launch of 3G services, according to officials at Qualcomm in San Diego.

Some of Qualcomms phone efforts made Kyocera realize that being first does not always guarantee success. Qualcomms pdQ, released in 1999, was the first device to combine the Palm operating system and a cell phone, but its large size and price caused it to flop. Kyoceras Palm OS-based 7135 has fared better, but last month the company recalled the batteries in 140,000 units because of four battery-failure reports, including a burn to a customers leg.

The defective batteries should be replaced within a couple of weeks, officials said. Kyocera plans to take legal action against the battery company, Coslight International Group, of Hong Kong. The new batteries will come from BYD Co. Ltd., in Shenzhen, China.