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INTERVIEW - DoCoMo plans Galaxy S and tablet launch

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc plans to beef up its smartphone line-up with Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy S handset and an Android-based tablet phone to attract more users, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

The logo of Japan's biggest mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo, Inc. is seen at its shop in Tokyo April 28, 2010. NTT DoCoMo Inc plans to beef up its smartphone line-up with Samsung Electronics Co's Galaxy S handset and an Android-based tablet phone to attract more users, its chief executive said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files

DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest mobile phone operator with more than 56.5 million subscribers, is rapidly expanding its smartphone roster to battle rival Softbank Corp, which is surging in popularity as a distributer of Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad.

DoCoMo now aims to offer seven smartphones this financial year, two more than originally planned, to tap surging demand for phones with computer capabilities.

“We want to offer a line of smartphones so that each customer can choose one that suits them,” Chief Executive Ryuji Yamada told Reuters in an interview.

“The Galaxy S comes with a very beautiful organic light emitting display, and we are also thinking about smartphones with one-seg (TV tuners) and FeliCa (an e-money payment function) as well as low-priced, netbook style, and tablet-type ones.”

Besides the Galaxy S in October and a tablet phone by March, it also plans to launch a new BlackBerry phone by Research In Motion as one of its winter/spring models.

To boost its chances of winning tablet phone users, Yamada said DoCoMo wants to create an e-book content service group, similar to rival KDDI Corp’s partnership with Sony, Toppan Printing and the Asahi newspaper.

Yamada said its tablet device would be different from the popular iPad.

“The iPad is of course leading the tablet market right now, but it is a computer and not a phone,” he said.

“We’ve asked for one with a phone function, and it is being developed right now.”

The iPad essentially created the growing tablet market and a slew of such machines, from companies like Dell Inc and Toshiba Corp, are hitting the market this year.

Yamada said DoCoMo is discussing future devices with Samsung and the possibilities include a tablet device. But he declined to confirm or deny whether the tablet phone it plans to launch this business year will be manufactured by the South Korean maker.

DoCoMo made a bet on the smartphone market with Sony Ericsson’s Xperia phone in April, and Yamada said the company has sold around 300,000 units of the device so far.

“I think Xperia and Galaxy S will be the ones that stand out,” he said.

Both handsets are based on Google Inc’s Android operating system.

The Galaxy S is Samsung’s answer to the iPhone 4, the latest version of the wildly popular iPhone. Samsung, the world’s second-biggest maker of mobile phones, is launching the handset with 100 carriers including the top five U.S. carriers.

DoCoMo has been trying to offer iPhones and iPads as well, and Yamada reiterated that the company has not given up on trying to become a distributor of the devices.

Shares of DoCoMo closed down 0.3 percent at 138,900 yen before the interview, against a 0.6 percent fall in the benchmark Nikkei average.

(Reporting by Sachi Izumi and Reiji Murai; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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