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Data gets punch from Matsushita, NEC

The electronics makers have designed new cell phones that have more power for text messaging, Internet access and game playing, a representative says.

Electronics makers Matsushita Electric and NEC have designed new cell phones that have more power for text messaging, Internet access and game playing, a Matsushita representative said Friday.

Products based on the new designs will make their way to stores by the end of next year, according to the representative. The two companies have been working together since August.

As the cell phone market becomes saturated, companies have been trying to improve a phone's ability to handle data--like sending and receiving e-mails, Web surfing or playing online games--to give cell phone users a reason to upgrade and buy new phones. Intel, for example, has been designing the same type of powerful phone components for the past year.

Kevin Krewell, senior analyst at research firm Cahners In-Stat Group, said that adding more processing power to that part of a phone might improve the way a phone works, but at a price.

"The trade-off is it requires more memory," he said. "And more cost."

Matsushita was not saying how much these new phones might cost. The two companies already make next-generation phones for NTT DoCoMo, a cell phone provider in Japan. One phone, which allows a user to download and play videos, costs about $500. Another phone is priced at $250.

The phones might sound unusual to the 140 million U.S. cell phone customers, who use cell phones mostly to make voice calls. E-mailing or instant messaging is done almost exclusively on personal computers in the United States.

But cell phone users in Europe and Asia, where cell phones outnumber computers by a 5-to-1 ratio, send upward of 50 billion text messages a month on their phones.

Companies such as Agere Systems and Texas Instruments have already expressed an interest in the Matsushita/NEC products, according to a Matsushita representative. They could license the Matsushita/NEC designs and make chips to use in the phones.