Going on sale today, Japan’s second largest mobile service provider, KDDI, is offering the new Kyocera Urbano Progresso, a smartphone that doesn’t have a traditional receiver speaker, but instead transmits sound to the ear via vibration in the screen. On display now at the Wireless Japan 2012 exhibition in Tokyo, Kyocera reveals that it’s the first time that “tissue conduction” technology has been used this way. The vibrations from the screen are picked up physically by the tiny bones inside the ear canal, resulting in less interference from noise in the background.
Taking advantage of the noisy environment at an exhibition in Tokyo, Kyocera is demonstrating the Urbano Progresso by users try the phone while standing in front of a speaker that blasts noise like sounds of construction and traffic. The phone is simple to use, any the only requirement from the user is that they firmly press the phone against the side of their face. Users trying the smartphone in front the speaker say that they could still clearly hear the conversation over the noise.
The vibrations from the screen are created by technology called “Smart Sonic Receiver,” co-developed by Kyocera and KDDI. The small device is placed along the top half of the phone, and is small enough that its developers suggest it could also be used in headphones or other devices that are pressed against the ear. The smartphone does have an external speaker on the back, but that is only used for ring tones or conversations placed on speakerphone. The Urbano Progresso comes running Android 4.0, and features a 4-inch screen and 8 megapixel camera.
It’s too bad that Kyocera has stated this phone will remain in Japan only, as the ability to improve the clarity of conversations in noisy environments would certainly be a welcome feature in the West. With all the high-tech features introduced every year by Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s handsets, it’s beginning to feel like the last thing that’s considered is how well the device can handle a phone conversation. The cell phone industry in Japan was caught way off guard by the popularity of smartphones after the iPhone was introduced. Now, as many manufacturers struggle to compete against Apple’s ubiquitous device, they try to distinguish themselves by offering smartphone with quirky, odd features, such as Sharp’s new Pantone 5 107SH, which is the first to offer a radiation detector.