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Panasonic to launch rugged 5-inch smartie next month?

Panasonic is rumoured to be making mobiles again, with a 5-inch rugged smartie planned for next month.

Panasonic only pulled out of the smart phone market a few months ago, after its Android-powered Eluga smart phones (pictured) failed to catch on. But now a new rumour says it might jump straight back in and start making smart phones again. According to Japanese site Asahi, the company is set to launch a rugged 5-inch smartie at Mobile World Congress in February.

If it does so, that would be one of the quickest turnarounds in mobile history.

In September, Panasonic announced it would stop making smart phones to focus on its Toughbook range of PCs and tablets. It didn't come as a big surprise. Within two years, the company lost an estimated £9.6 billion. Though its Eluga smart phones weren't exactly bad, there wasn't much making them stand out from the rest of the Android crowd. Even that waterproof construction wasn't enough. Almost a year earlier, the company hinted it might stop making mobiles.

It already did so once. In 2001, Panasonic was one of the biggest mobile manufacturers in Japan, but it stopped making phones in 2005. Sounds to me like it can't make its mind up.

So if it does launch a new smart phone in February, what can we expect?

The handset is set to be pretty big, with a 5-inch screen rivalling the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4. It'll be rugged too, so will be ideal for construction companies, according to Asahi.

Panasonic is said to be negotiating with major US construction companies, seeking a partnership.

I've asked Panasonic if it would like to comment, and will update this story if I hear back.

Would you like to see Panasonic start making mobiles again? Would a rugged device be enough to revive its fortunes? What would you want from a new Panasonic phone? Let me know in the comments, or on our thoroughly rugged Facebook page.