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Panasonic introduces waterproof smartphones

Your smartphone would almost certainly be dead on arrival if you clumsily dropped it into a lake, swimming pool or the bathtub. That is unless you had the new Panasonic Eluga or Eluga Power smartphones on display in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress.

On the surface, these are thin and attractive Android handsets. Eluga runs Android version 2.35 Gingerbread, but will support Android 4.0 -- or Ice Cream Sandwich -- later this summer via wireless update. The Eluga Power will debut with Ice Cream Sandwich.

Both have 8GB of memory, near field communication technology (NFC) for wireless payments, and 8-megapixel cameras. On the Power, memory is expandable by 32GB. The Eluga Power also has a larger screen (5 inches vs. 4.3 inches), faster dual-core processor, and 1080p full-HD video capability. And Panasonic says the battery on Eluga Power can be half-charged in a just a half-hour, and reach 80% capacity in 57 minutes.

What sets the phones apart is that they're waterproof, though you'd be hard-pressed to tell on the surface. They aren't buried in scuba gear or have any obvious protective covering. Panasonic demonstrated an Eluga model by placing it in a bowl of water.

There are limits, however. You won't want to swim with the phone or drown it in water for very long. Panasonic says the handsets are protected up to a depth of about 1 meter for 30 minutes. The phones are also dustproof.

The technology is borrowed from Panasonic's Toughbook line of ruggedized notebooks.

The Eluga phone will reach European markets around April at a cost of between 399 and 449 Euros ($536-$603) unsubsidized. North American and Chinese versions are expected later in the year. Panasonic hasn't said what the Eluga Power model will cost.


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