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Two-piece cell phone cuts radiation

A Hong Kong-based company is planning to release a cell phone that could put radio frequency farther from the user. The phone is not yet scheduled for U.S. markets.

    A Hong Kong-based company has developed a cell phone that could put radio frequency farther from the user.

    Group Sense's Greenphone e688 splits the conventional cell phone into two parts but maintains connectivity wirelessly via Bluetooth, a radio-frequency communication standard. The main handset, called the eFone, contains the display screen, speaker and microphone. This device is used for making voice calls and typing text messages.

    A separate rectangular case, known as the eBox, holds a user's subscriber identification module (SIM) card, which provides the authentication required to register the phone with a mobile network. It also contains the owner's contacts and short messages.

    Since the case can be shelved up to 10 meters away, the caller is exposed to low-powered radio waves instead of potentially hazardous emissions of mobile phones, said Stuart Tan, Group Sense business development manager.

    In an interview, Tan said the company is currently conducting Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) tests for the Greenphone. SAR is a measure of the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the human body.

    In recent years, there has been much debate over the effects of cell phone-emitted radio waves. Although there has been no conclusive link between phones and health hazards, public concern has prompted government bodies to take action.

    Last week, the United States launched a site related to cell phone safety, while the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry published a report on the effectiveness of cell phone shields. One analyst, however, pointed out that health reasons alone might not sway customers to purchase the product.

    "The issue of radiation may not be compelling enough for this device to take off," said IDC Asia-Pacific analyst Gary Hong. "Reception and voice quality may suffer because of the additional Bluetooth connection required...Group Sense needs a stronger value proposition, such as support for wireless networking," Hong said.

    The Greenphone is expected to be released later this month in various Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China. Pricing details were not available.

    The Bluetooth wireless communication standard eliminates cable clutter, making it easier to synchronize handhelds, PCs and other devices, leading to the arrival of a personal area network of interconnected gadgets.

    The eBox lies at the center of Group Sense's vision for Bluetooth. The company, which released a Chinese-English PDA-phone last October, intends to create a suite of devices around the eBox, Group Sense's Tan said.

    In the pipeline is a pen-shaped phone to work with future versions of the eBox, he added.

    CNETAsia's Aloysius Choong reported from Singapore.