Ericsson I-mode phones pulled from stores

Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. has pulled a new Ericsson cellular telephone from Japanese store shelves because of two faults in the handset, the company said Wednesday.

The handset, the first from Ericsson to include support for DoCoMo’s hit I-mode wireless Internet service, has been on sale since early December and about 12,000 of the telephones have been sold, said Yuki Isono, a spokeswoman for NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s dominant cellular telephone carrier. DoCoMo withdrew it from sale on December 28.

The first of the two problems concerns the inability to use circuit-switched data transmission under certain conditions, she said. This problem will mainly hit users who connect the telephone to their personal computers or digital organizers. The I-mode service is unaffected because it makes use of packet-switched data.

The second fault occurs within the scheduler software that is built into the telephone, said Isono. The repeat function sometimes does not work, so that scheduling entries cannot be set to recur, said the company.

As a result of the problem, DoCoMo removed the telephones from the shelves of its shops and called on other retailers to do the same. The carrier will make public the problem on Wednesday, and customers who have already bought the handsets will be contacted by the end of January and notified of the problem, said the spokeswoman.

The telephones were manufactured by Hitachi Kokusai Denki Inc. and supplied to Ericsson Mobile Communications Japan KK, a joint venture between L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. and Japan’s Marubeni Corp., which then supplied them to NTT DoCoMo.

Hitachi Kokusai Denki also supplies telephones to NTT DoCoMo under its own name and the same fault has hit its KO209i, which shares some of the same parts. NTT DoCoMo has sold 18,000 units of that handset since it was launched. Owners of these telephones will also be contacted and advised of the problems, the carrier said.

Ericsson launched the telephone, its first to support NTT DoCoMo’s I-mode wireless Internet system, in early December. Its main selling point is its Swedish styling, something that makes it stand out from many Japanese handsets, although the telephone features several other functions, such as harmony melody ringing tones and a function to improve voice call quality.

More information on the ER209i telephone can be found at http://www.ericsson.co.jp/phones/eng/framesete.htm.

Mariko Murakami of IDG Japan contributed to this story.

Nippon Ericsson, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.ericsson.co.jp/.