LINE Creates NFC Toy Smartphone for Kids

Popular smart phone messaging app LINE created by Naver Japan has collaborated with major Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy to create a range of merchandise aimed at children based on a new animated series called LINE Town.

The LINE Town series has begun broadcasting in Japan on TV Tokyo (Thursdays from 6.30-7pm) and is based on characters from LINE’s stickers which are more sophisticated than emoticons, featuring a larger spectrum of personas, humour and darkness.

It is easy to understand the massive popularity of LINE in Japan, just from observing people using the app on crowded subway trains and especially when most young people will ask for my LINE id instead of Facebook when exchanging contacts. According to ZDNet Asia worldwide LINE users now exceed 150 million.

LINE TOWN, the animated series. Image via Lineblog

LINE’s popularity coupled with Japan’s preference for cute and distinct characters is probably what spurred the creation of the animated series and spin off products which includes the MY TOUCH phone, a LINE sticker printing kit, several customised LINE stamp kits and toy figures (pictured bellow).

Images via watch.impress

LINE Town My Touch is designed so that children who are not ‘lucky’ enough to have smartphones can still enjoy the simulated experience of using them. The most unique aspect of My Touch for children is the application of NFC technology to exchange LINE stickers and messages by ‘touching’ the phones together (as pictured bellow).

To further replicate the experience of using a real smartphone, My Touch is equipped with colour LCD screens and sliding touch functions that children use to navigate through the menu of LINE Town mini-games and activities that allows them to unlock more characters and stickers. My Touch is scheduled for released on August 8, 2012 at 6,825 yen (US$70) which is quite steep considering it is a fake phone for children.

This strategy by LINE and Takara Tomy to entice children into the habit of using smart phones to communicate with friends at an early age could produce more smartphone dependant young people and create a strong affiliation between LINE and mobile communication.

Image via coolsmartphone

On the one hand maybe it is good to have more children confident with using the latest in mobile technology so that they are quicker to adapt to changing communication trends in the future. On the other hand should children really be playing and chatting to each other with fake smartphones? Wouldn’t it be better if they just talked to each other instead? Especially if they are only a few feet away.

About the Author

Thomas is a pentalingual graduate of Modern East Asian Studies from the University of Hong Kong, now based in Japan as editor of Shifteast.com for Mandalah Tokyo.