We don't often think of Panasonic when it comes to smartphones, and it appears the Japanese public doesn't either. According to the Nikkei, the consumer electronics giant will step out of the smartphone business in the Land of the Rising Sun, and plans to shut down its only handset production plant in March of next year. Phone sales dropped precipitously in the recent April to June quarter, which Panasonic attributes to NTT DoCoMo's recent discounts for Sony and Samsung handhelds over its own. The Japanese carrier is said to stop carrying Panasonic handsets some time this Winter. Yet, Panasonic isn't terminating its cellular business entirely -- it'll keep certain models around for corporate and foreign markets (perhaps the P51 or the Eluga?), and it won't stop making those regular ol' feature phones. In the meantime, the Nikkei reports that Panasonic is courting potential suitors for its cellular base stations. It seems that despite the increasing popularity of smartphones, not everyone can survive the cutthroat mobile market.

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Nikkei: Panasonic to halt smartphone business in Japan