If you thought your cool new WAP (wireless access protocol) handset was the latest and greatest in mobile phone technology, we’ve got bad news for you. Those monochrome-screen phones have suddenly become old-fashioned.

Hitachi has just launched a new mobile handset in Japan - the first WAP handset to feature a colour screen.

The launch comes amid an explosion of colour onto the screens of Japanese mobile phone users.

Colour LCDs (liquid crystal displays) began appearing several months ago on conventional handsets (the ones that just allow you to talk), and NTT DoCoMo launched colour versions of its handsets for the competing i-mode wireless Internet service recently.

Hitachi's C309H features a 256-color STN (super-twisted nematic) LCD with resolution of 120 by 143 pixels. That's good enough to show animations and some very basic images.

In fact, the telephone comes with some built-in animations to amuse the owner. In normal mode, the user can view a selection of backgrounds, such as pictures of landscapes.

An altogether more fun "hamster mode," designed primarily for Japan's character-crazy girls and young women, features a cartoon hamster that will dance on the screen.

At 89 grams, the phone is heavier than some competing monochrome models and slightly heavier than Hitachi's C302 WAP handset, which was launched last year and weighs 84 grams. The phone measures 46 by 19 by 130 millimeters, has a talk time of 170 minutes and a standby battery life of 190 hours, which is almost eight days.

No launch details for the UK have so far been announced.