Panasonic to launch Android smartphone in 2012

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After a rough year of sales, Panasonic has revealed that it plans to release an Android-based smartphone in 2012. The handset will first be introduced in the the European market in March, followed by the US, and various Asian markets. This will be the first time the struggling electronics giant has released a cellphone outside of Japan.

According to the official announcement, the device will have a qHD 4.3-inch OLED display, a slim bezel, an ultra-slim D-shaped design “for ease of portability,” and be both waterproof and dustproof “for ease of handling.” The handset will also have NFC mobile wallet capabilities. Panasonic plans to market the device to business people in their 30s and 40s, meaning it will probably be expensive.

Through this, Panasonic aims to ship 1.5 million devices next year, and ramp up to total global sales of 15 million by 2016.

Panasonic’s move into the fiercely competitive smartphone market comes as the company is expected to post an annual loss of $5.5 billion — the worst downturn in over a decade, reports Reuters. Part of this is due to the company’s failure to jump into the burgeoning smartphone market earlier.

“We are well aware of our powerful competitors,” said Toshinori Hoshi, head of Panasonic’s mobile division. “However, market shares are changing dramatically and if we launch into this fast-changing market, we believe we have a chance of a hit.”

At present, Apple and Samsung are the companies to beat in this sector, with second-teir competitors like HTC, Motorola, LG and China’s ZTE following in their path. In total, the smartphone market is expected to hit a whopping 982 million sales by 2015. The only question now: Is Panasonic already too late to get a piece of the action?

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