Next week sees the start of the latest skirmish in Japan’s increasingly bloody mobile phone war, with the arrival of the freshest handsets from market leader NTT DoCoMo.

The current period is critical for all three big networks in Japan, as customers increasingly change carrier due to relatively new number-portability regulations allowing them to do so. The upshot has been intense price cutting and handset innovation in the last few months.

Services in abundance

Although adding features (and hardware, of course) galore means there has been a glut of chunky phones that won’t win any beauty contests, some of the new stuff is starting to look interesting.

The eight new DoCoMo 906i series phones continue to up the ante, with a couple of innovations in particular standing out amid the usual garish line-up of (mostly) fat phones.

A new service called Home U brings fixed-to-mobile convergence to Japan for the first time through the N906iL, which flips from the 3G FOMA network onto a home Wi-Fi connection automatically for VoIP calls.

Wi-Fi calls to other Home U users are free, while the reward for taking the weight off DoCoMo’s phone network is a 30 per cent call-price cut to other phones. Naturally, the phone can also take advantage of broadband download speeds when at home too.

VPN you say?

A parallel service called Pocket U might have a slightly harder time winning customers, as it adds a VPN (Virtual Private Network) client to several of the other new phones that lets users dial into their home PCs to retrieve audio, video and documents. Probably not a deal breaker for most folk.

Lastly, all the new phones have the ability to hook up to a Blu-ray player by USB to receive a specially formatted copy of any disk for viewing on the go. We’re not sure how the BD selling point of high-def movies will go down in the world of mobile phones, but it’s a nice trick for sure.