Sharp's mobile phone aims to get your engine running

Unveils prototype of phone, due out in 2009, that unlocks car doors and starts the engine

Sharp is looking to get your engines running. Literally.

Sharp announced Wednesday that the company teamed up with carmaker Nissan and NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese mobile operator in Japan, to build a mobile phone that will not only unlock your car door but start its engine as well.

Using what it calls an intelligent key system developed by Nissan, the prototype phone is designed to merge automotive and cellular technologies, according to an announcement from mobile-phone maker Sharp. People will get their first look at the prototype at IT and electronics show CEATEC Japan 2008 at the end of the month. Sharp noted that it's aiming for an official launch of the technology in 2009.

"There are going to be gadgets galore coming out. Everyone is trying to find an edge in the market," said Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst with J. Gold Associates. "This is more of a demonstration of technology but does anybody want it? It'll get a lot of attention on the Internet but will people run out and buy one? I doubt it."

Gold added that mobile phone manufacturers should focus on getting users better reception and making their devices cheaper, instead of adding gadgets.

"What companies miss sight of is that they really should stick to their knitting and get the basic functions down first," he said. "It's not [about] starting my car. Maybe I'm just an old fart but they should focus on the user experience? Back scratchers. Car starters. It's too many diversions."

Nissan's Intelligent Key system reportedly has been installed on more than 250,000 of its car models since 2002. It uses two-way wireless technology to remotely lock and unlock car doors and start and stop the engine. The technology is being integrated into the upcoming Sharp phone.

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Sharon Gaudin

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