Global IT leader, LG Electronics, has launched a new mobile handset, the F7100 Qiblah phone, which caters to the prayer needs of Muslim faithfuls, in Nigeria.

The new phone has an indicator setting that points to Mecca and comes complete with a compass and prayer time alarm functions. The Qiblah indicator uses an inbuilt longitude and latitude orientation or city references that, when used in comparison to the magnetic north, indicates the direction of the Qiblah so that the Muslim can, from any place he is, know in what direction to face and pray.

According to LG representative, Vishwas Saxena, LG is looking to cater for the specific needs of Nigeria's Muslim community. "I know people who are five times praying people but they are just so occupied and they miss the prayer timing. This one will tell you when to pray and which direction to seat," he said.

Speaking on the success of the phone's launch in Kano and Kaduna recently, Saxena said he was amazed at the excitement caused by the phone's launch. "We did a road show in front of three mosques in Kano and people were so excited to see the phone and to try it. They were amazed at the way it works," he said.

"We put out an advert with two mobile phone numbers. Each of us received nothing less than 300 phone calls asking to know where to get the phones. I'm still receiving phone calls a week after the advert was published. At a poit we were getting phone calls almost every five to 10 minutes, he added.

Saxena, who described the LG Electronics F7100 Qiblah sliding phone as a mid-end phone said only that one model existed presently in the Nigerian market, but that newer models would be introduced as the phone's acceptance grew.

On whether the Qiblah function made the phone more expensive, he said, "the price of this phone it is very reasonable. If there is something that you want and it is available, you would want to have it no matter what.The phone is priced at N25,000 in the marketplace and I don't think that's very expensive."

On his part, Sang Kil Park, of the Telecommunication and Handset Division, LG Electronics, said, "No matter where the faithfuls are at the call to prayer, they will be able to easily identify the direction of Mecca with this phone. As a global and regional digital leader, LG is commited to setting the standards for state-of-the-art solutions and providing our customers products of the highest quality. Currently, mobile phones are taking to the mainstream by catering to local geographical and cultural demands. The unveiling of the compass mobile phone at this time is part of such strategy to meet customers needs."

Other rich features of the LG Electronics F7100 Qiblah phone include Java applications support, answering machine, GPRS, 40-tone polyphonic ring tones, MMS, EMS, personal organiser featuring calender, clock, alarm, world time, currency converter, calculator, phone book (up to 250 entries) and games. It weighs just 89 grams, and the Li-polymer battery has up to 3.5 hours talk time, and standby time of up to 200 hours.

With the innovative slide down keypad, users can enjoy two functions of display. The screen can be enlarged when the keypad is pulled down and has 65,000-colour display of high-resolution pictures.

"To be a leader in business, you have to innovate and pay attention to detail. In just over a year, LG has become a serious competitor in the region's mobile phone market and this phone will further expand an already successful LG mobile range. We expect this handset to position itself as a specialised functional phone in the regional market; in particular it is expected to spur a boomin the region because the compass may be used even where GPS services are unavailable," said Mr. Park.

Besides the Middle East and Africa, LG plans to expand the Qiblah phone market all over the world, including Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Fouani Nigeria Limited is a major distributor of the LG F7100 Qiblah phone in Nigeria.