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Samsung to slot a hard drive into handsets

One-inch media storage drive marks a step forward for convergence of mobile devices.

The convergence of cell phones and other portable devices shuffled another step forward on Monday when Samsung launched a handset that contained a 1.5GB hard drive with a one-inch diameter.

South Korea-based Samsung has claimed that the SPH-V5400, which was launched in Japan, is the first mobile phone to include a hard drive. Owners will be able to store a wide range of different types of media on it, including digital music files and photos.

With an estimated retail price of $800, according to the IDG News Service, the SPG-V5400 is a relatively expensive way of buying storage capacity.

But as the device will be able to store over 350 MP3s recorded at 128 bits per second, it could serve as a passable substitute to an iPod, if there were also music-playing software on the phone.

The SPG-V5400 also has two LCD (liquid-crystal display) screens--a main screen of 320 pixels by 240 pixels and a secondary screen of 128 by 128.

In recent years, the technology industry has been debating whether cell phones or PDAs (personal digital assistants) would end up dominating the handheld computer sector. The battle appears to have swung in favor of the new range of smart phones that have been hitting the market, but manufacturers have been struggling to squeeze enough memory into the handsets.

Hard-drive manufacturers are constantly competing to squeeze more capacity into the same form factor. Last month, Toshiba announced it had created a 1.8-inch drive with a capacity of 60GB. There is also a big push to create smaller drives, below the one-inch mark, at a price that's viable for commercial launch.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.