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Want to text and walk? New cell phone says no

Japanese cell phone provider DoCoMo offers Android phones with a "safety mode" that locks the device if you try to use it when walking.

2 min read
Should we cut it out? John McCready/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's a certain nobility in offering a product most people should use, but no one will.

I am, therefore, in admiration of Japanese cell phone provider DoCoMo, which decided to offer Android phones that have special sense of responsibility.

These devices have a very simple addition: they can halt your phone when you try and use it and walk at the same time.

As RocketNews 24 reported, it has a so-called "safety mode" that gets very cross with you if you try to text and walk.

Indeed, it locks your phone and shows a warning screen with these stern words: "Using your smartphone while walking is dangerous. The phone senses you are walking. Please stop."

Can this thing be real? It appears to be.

According to a translation of DoCoMo's press release about the new feature, the warning screen appears when you look at your smartphone while walking.

Once your phone detects that you've stopped walking, you can use it again, according to the release. Those who can't be bothered to stop can tap a close button on the screen in order to get 10 seconds of usage or hold down the power button for 5 seconds of usage.

DoCoMo's release didn't offer many other details. How does the phone senses you are walking rather than riding a horse or keeping fit on a treadmill? Its also unclear how safety mode handles apps running in the background or whether it allows voice commands for phone calls and texts.

However, the feature, though being free, is also voluntary.

Who, then, will choose to use it? How many people are self-disciplined enough to know that they have no self-control?

Who will have the courage and honesty to say: "I can't trust myself today. I might not see things straight for the next 24 hours"?

This seems to be a very useful feature looking for the one perfect human who doesn't actually exist.

Then again, those who have been imperiled might be the perfect targets. The woman, for example, who fell into Lake Michigan while texting. Or the woman who was texting and fell off a cliff in Alaska. There was also the woman who was texting and graced into a mall fountain (video above).

And who could forget the woman in Birmingham, England, who came out of a building, walked down the steps, brilliantly navigating them while texting her lover? Until she tumbled into a canal, that is.

I can imagine, too, that this safety mode would be very enticing to the outgoing New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He might believe that by enforcing its use, he would make the streets of his city safer.

However, didn't New Yorkers walk into each other even when they didn't have cell phones?