You can think of DoCoMo’s newest handsets as “901i lite.” The cell carrier hopes four, slim 700i handsets will sing and dance their way into ever-stingier consumers’ hearts and wallets. They are packed with would-be FOMA functionality minus the FeliCa e-wallet and could just provide a significant competitive advantage at a time when KDDI and Vodafone are still rushing to market with fully featured 3G battleships that command heavy-duty prices. Sometime-WWJ commentator Ken Gai’s take on the move is that Big D is merely launching a shrewd counter-attack on KDDI/au… and will use this series as launch pad to boost migration to 3G — perhaps even passing KDDI for total 3G subs by Christmas. But WWJ wonders: What else are they afraid of?
The 700i-series handsets are packed with FOMA functions: Chaku Uta ring tones, Chaku Motion ring videos, Chara Den (character avatars that project the caller’s image during video calling), Deco-mail (HTML-formatted virtual stickers for decorating mobile email) plus a QVGA LCD screen, Java and Macromedia Flash applications. In fact, these cellys are almost FOMA in all but name.
What the 700is lack is the flagship FeliCa e-wallet function, previously announced by various Senior DoCoMo People as ‘standard’ on all new phones. Why the mid-course correction? Hmmmm… We smell fear.
Cutting out FeliCa reportedly lets DoCoMo cut the suggested retail price of this handset by a hefty 10,000 yen. (Though all phones are delivered by the carriers to the retail chain under what is termed ‘open pricing’ there are in fact pricing guidelines the public never sees.) Is DoCoMo worried that price destruction at retail in this spring’s hypercompetitive 3G upgrade battle could leave their full-featured FOMA models high and dry on shop shelves?
Or are they worried about consumer backlash with respect to FeliCa?
We’ve heard several rumours that at least some consumers don’t trust anything related to e-money, don’t wish to carry real cash around in their phones and fear that adding cash to their phones will make them more attractive for thieves. Perhaps DoCoMo realise that not all customers wish to join the 21st century at the same rate, and that a non-FeliCa choice is mandatory to serve the entire market.
Time will tell.
Finally, the 700is are also equipped with an SD memory card providing music playback options and, like big brother 901i, they have the G-Guide option for accessing up to eight days of TV scheduling.
Again, 700i = 901i – FeliCa.
The first 700i model will be released — provided it can find space on already crowded retail shelves — on 10 February.
(See DoCoMo PR release here.)
– The Editors