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Fujitsu Seeking Way Into Crowded U.S. Smartphone Market

For the last several years, Fujitsu has been content to be a big mobile player in Japan, thanks to a close relationship with DoCoMo, and yet relatively unheard of in the rest of the smartphone universe.

That, however, is starting to change.

With the market increasingly global — and overseas players impinging on its domestic market, Fujitsu is looking overseas. And when it looks, it sees North America as the place it would most like to be.

“North America is our priority market,” Senior Executive Vice President Hideyuki Saso said in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show. Fujitsu is also in the process of reacquiring full control of a mobile joint venture that had paired it with Toshiba in the phone business.

Fujitsu, which makes both Android and Windows Phone devices in Japan, isn’t quite sure what market niche it will target, but it is sure it doesn’t want to be just one among the smartphone masses.

“If we try to do same thing as how our competitors because of the competition, it is going to be tough,” Saso said via a translator. “We would like to identify the right way of entering the North American market that would make use of our technology and expertise to make a steady landing.”

Timing is also uncertain, though Saso said the company hopes it will be either later this year or next year. The key, he said, is to figure out where it can stand out from the pack.

“We don’t want to be just another mobile phone,” he said, “We want to be special.”

While the U.S. smartphone market is already crowded, Saso said Fujitsu has several strenghts it can draw on, including a wide range of thin, yet durable and waterproof models. Though not yet a player here, Fujitsu boasts it has the thinnest smartphone approved by the FCC for use in the U.S.

In making its phones waterproof, Saso said, the company had to also make them tough.

“For us to achieve this waterproof (capability), we also had to look at durability again, the rigidness and the toughness,” he said, banging a large pen on the phone’s screen for emphasis.

Fujitsu also has the noise cancellation used in a Formula One vehicle it sponsors — a position that explains the presence of the race car in its CES booth.

All of those, Saso says, could form the basis of Fujitsu’s entry, though the company is still evaluating its product options. Another approach would be to offer a phone similar to the Raku Raku (“easy easy”) phone it offers in Japan — a basic phone, aimed at seniors, that mixes in enhanced calling and health diagnostics such as heart rate, calorie and fat intake, and exercise. Fujitsu has sold 20 million of the devices in Japan.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus