May 18, 2004, 9:01 AM — Just when you thought cell phones had everything, engineers at Sharp Corp. and Toshiba Corp. have come up with new handsets that can double as portable karaoke machines.
The phones will go on sale in Japan in the middle of this year and are some of the first that can be connected to an external display, in this case a television set, so that users don't have to crowd around the phone's small display. It's this capability and a new service from Vodafone K.K. called V-kara that makes possible the karaoke function.
Users of the V602SH and V601T phones can download karaoke files from the Vodafone Live mobile Internet service. With the television connection the words to the song plus a simple animation appear on the screen and the melody through the speakers. The handset can then be used as the microphone with the singer's voice also coming out of the television.
Vodafone already offers a number of karaoke files for download through Vodafone Live although users have been restricted to playing them on the handset screen and singing out loud to themselves and whoever is in the vicinity. The new phones can be used in that fashion as well, although by connecting them to a TV set they offer an experience much closer to that of a home karaoke machine.
Prices for the new service have not yet been announced but the current karaoke files cost around