DoCoMo readying smartphone for kids that blocks Google

The Android-based "Smartphone for Juniors," built by Sharp, comes with filters for calls, mail and web

NTT DoCoMo is launching a new educational Android phone for Japanese children, but the kids will have to wait to learn about Google.

The "Smartphone for Juniors," made by Sharp, will only be able to access applications offered through a DoCoMo portal. The Google Play application store, along with apps such as Google Maps and Gmail, will not be usable, though kids can surf the Internet if their parents allow.

DoCoMo says the phone is aimed at "upper elementary and junior high school students" and is offering it in a youthful color collection of blue, pink and white. It includes filters for calls, mails, and Internet access, as well as length and time of use.

The waterproof, dustproof handset has a loud buzzer feature for when children feel threatened, and can be tracked by parents throughout the day using an existing service. It also comes with some games installed, including a mobile version of the popular title "Monster Hunter."

Japan currently has more mobile contracts than total population, and competition between operators for existing users is fierce because of a number portability law that allows those that switch to a new carrier to keep their phone number.

All three of the country's major operators offer family plans and phones aimed at children, but DoCoMo appears to be the first to offer a kiddy smartphone. Last year, DoCoMo launched a smartphone for the elderly, under its successful "RakuRaku" line, which means "easy" or "comfortable." The phone, made by Fujitsu, features a scaled-down interface with large text and buttons, and also doesn't require a Google account, as registration can be confusing for seniors.

The phone will run on DoCoMo's high-speed LTE service, and the company is offering a monthly data plan at 2,980 yen (US$36) for up to 500MB of data for use with the phone, about half the price of adult plans.

DoCoMo says parents will be able to control most aspects of how children use the phone. Voice calls and mobile mail can be limited to names that are saved in the phone book, and duration limits can be set for the length of calls and Internet use, as well as what time such activities are allowed to occur.

The phone is equipped with a four-inch screen and a dual-core 1.5GHz processor. It will run Android 4.0 at launch.

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