Panasonic to launch waterproof Eluga phone
PANASONIC will return to the European mobile phone market with a new range called the Eluga, the Japanese electronics giant has confirmed.
It announced in Hamburg that it hopes to sell 1.5million Eluga phones across Europe in its first year, and 15 million globally by 2015.
The Eluga, which is waterproof and dustproof, will be based on Google’s Android platform and will launch from April at a price of around £400. Panasonic says it will continue to focus on the expensive, more profitable end of the mobile market for future models.
Although the company claims it accounted for 12 per cent of the European market in the early 2000s, Panasonic withdrew in 2006 to concentrate on Japan, where it was the first manufacturer to launch a 3G mobile phone, in 2001. It currently claims more than 20 per cent Japanese market share in mobile phones, and is the UK market leader in ‘ruggedised’ products. It hopes its mobile phones will build on the success of products such as its Toughbook laptop.
Laurent Abadie, Panasonic’s European Chief Executive and Chairman, said that the firm was right to launch now because while just 32 per cent of European consumers own smartphones, the global market grew 47 per cent over the last year.
The Eluga, which stands for Elegant User Gateway, will form the “centrepiece that will connect all Panasonic devices”, Mr Abadie claimed. It weighs 103g and is 7.8mm thick, featuring a 4.3” screen.
Although the latest Google Android phones run version four of the company’s software, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, the Eluga will launch in April across Europe running version 2.3, and subsequently be upgraded over the summer.
Next week, rival manufacturers are expected to announce further Android 4.0 devices at Mobile World Congress, the trade show in Barcelona.
Mr Abadie said that future Panasonic devices would add a front-facing camera to the Eluga, as well as incorporate improved cameras and larger screens. At launch the device will feature ‘near-field communications’, for new apps such as mobile payments, and 8GB of storage as well as integration with Panasonic’s existing TVs and other devices. Panasonic already makes tablets for business uses, and Mr Abadie did not rule them out for future consumers.
At its announcement in Hamburg, the Eluga was shown being used to show media stored on its own drive on a Panasonic television, as well remotely controlling a Panasonic camera. Similar technology has also been demonstrated by manufacturers such as Sony, LG and Samsung.
Mr Abadie said the device would act as “a kind of super remote controller” for other Panasonic products. It will use a microsim card, like Apple’s iPhone and Nokia’s new Lumia 800. It will also feature an eco-mode to improve battery life.
He said he expected it to be sold and marketed both directly to consumers and by operators.