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Photos: Japanese 'Buddha phone' launches, plays Nirvana

The phone for Asian Buddhists: Odin 99. In addition to having a built-in altar for worship on the go, it's got... hell, what else do you need?

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MP3 playback? Check. Two cameras? Check. Built-in mobile Buddhist altar? Che... Wait, WTF?!

You read correctly. The Odin 99 has landed on the streets of China, and a single tap of the phone's dedicated lotus-leaf button will load a private, customisable, animated altar.

The idea is to allow Buddhists to perform their dedications and rituals conveniently when away from home. You can simulate incense burning, purification rites and play music to help you meditate wherever you happen to be.

As far as our knowledge goes of inventions that seamlessly converge religion with phone calls, this takes the gold medal. Gold paint has been taken to the phone too, encrusting the otherwise conventional-looking device. Also interesting is that it comes with a metal Buddhist charm to be carried by the user, and two batteries -- the extra one considered 'a gift'.

At first we were amused. But then came objective inquisitiveness: would a Buddhist actually find this useful? CNET UK lacks a Buddhist writer to ask, and crowd-sourcing opinions on Twitter came up with nothing.

But, before now, we've seen iPhone apps like digitalBlend's Buddha Box (iTunes link) -- created by a Buddhist to aid on-the-go meditation -- and its reviews are favourable. But no UK networks carry a phone with such religious undertones, and we don't believe it's a hotly requested feature.

Or is it? If you're Buddhist and would find a device like this useful, please do let us know in the comments below. We're very keen to hear your opinions, as other readers will be too, no doubt.

More photos, courtesy of our colleague Yamane Yasuhiro of CNET Japan, are splattered over the next few pages.

Update: One of our buddies from CNET Japan has pointed out this phone is actually only available in China, not Japan, as we previously said. Sorry for any confusion. 

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Here's the lotus-leaf button for activating the altar.
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The packaging is enormous. Apparently, the idea is that the box is put on a bookshelf after being bought. We're not sure why.
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The bundled charm.
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Before it's switched on, you'd be forgiven for missing the fact that this is a religious phone. We're sure there's a good reason why it's gold, but Google Translate didn't point one out in the original article.
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A leaf motif disguises the built-in speakers on the back.
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Here are the menu screens.

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