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DoCoMo eyes 'Google phone' launch next year

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Japan's top carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc aims to launch next year a cellphone developed with Internet search giant Google, an official said today, a move that could counter Apple's iconic iPhone.     

"As we are allied with Google, we are considering a commercial mobile device together," a DoCoMo official told AFP.     

A Google phone, or a mobile device powered by Google's open-source Android software, could compete with the iPhone 3G, which has been sold through third-largest carrier Softbank Mobile in Japan since July.     

Sales of iPhones have not been explosive in Japan, where sophisticated cellphones were already widely used.     

But the iPhone launch still helped Softbank attract more customers than NTT DoCoMo and another rival KDDI Corp in the July-September quarter.     

The Nikkei economic daily said today South Korea's KT Freetel is also involved in the DoCoMo-Google project but the official said nothing had been decided on potential partners.

DoCoMo has a 10 per cent stake in KT Freetel. The daily also said the new Google phone would come with a keyboard and a touch-panel display and be some 20 per cent cheaper than currently available cellphones.     

DoCoMo announced a tie-up with Google in January, saying it would put the Internet giant's search and e-mail features into its popular "i-mode" Internet service as part of a broader alliance.     

The world's first Google phone was launched in the United States in October. It was developed with T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG.

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