“This is just the beginning,” Takeshi Natsuno, Managing Director of DoCoMo’s i-mode Planning Department, told Wireless Watch of the new flagship 5 FOMA 900i handsets that DoCoMo showed today and that should be released in or around February 2004. Before about 600 journalists, Natsuno’s message was that, after two years of battling battery/bulk problems, here finally, were 3G phones capable of 2G performance in terms of standby time and weight. But beyond this, DoCoMo has clearly worked hard to differentiate the phones from being more than “Super 505i” and hinted that the company was considering lowering data packet rates to compete with KDDI WIN and Vodafone K.K.’s recent Happy Packet rate cuts. But wow! What’s loaded in the the new fab 5, for example 500 Kbytes of gaming capability will be inevitably be the Final Fantasy for gamers (the game appears to be preloaded) and a real nightmare for competitors. Natsuno san, not known for being shy on stage at these sort of events, seemed to speak from the heart when he called the lineup the “best mobile phones in the world!” The critical question for DoCoMo, however, is differentiation from the already all-singing, all-dancing 505 series, and quite a few of our doubts were answered. But questions also remain. We’ll have a video program on the show, the phones and the figures behind the models up soon. Before that, here’s some of the upgraded low down on the fantatabulous 900is. And THEN there are the P900iV and the F900iT.
Chalk, cheese and lost opportunities: DoCoMo has ended its mystery-laden, Internet Bubble-popped tie up with AOL after deciding that it couldn’t make any money with them, and it’s flogging its entire barrow load of stock (its 42.3%) holding back to AOL at, SURPRIZE, a good deal less than the $100 million it was reported to have paid. So are minority shareholders Mitsui & Co. and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc. In fact the Nikkei put it this way, we…”were exploring new services that would link personal computers and cellular phones over the Internet, but NTT DoCoMo has concluded that the venture is unlikely to become profitable.”
It’s been long argued that Japan’s mobile Internet can be divided into two eras: pre- and post-Java. Despite the 100K (or lower) limit imposed on Java applications by all three operators and a low cost of just a couple of hundred yen per download, the mobile application environment has been crucial in boosting usage, packets and profits, particularly at NTT DoCoMo. Java has been cheap for the public – and a moneymaker for the carriers. But a richer Java experience, introduced by Vodafone Japan, is what a high-end segment of the Japanese crowd is looking for.
Wireless Watch Japan attended NTT DoCoMo’s December 15 press conference demonstrating the first phones to feature the Sony developed “Felica” peer-to-peer payment system. To debit the cash stored on the phone’s IC chip, all you do is swipe the handset in front of a reader; more cash can be downloaded via the i-mode network. The trial, using 2,500 each of the N504iC and SO504iC handsets (engineered by NEC and Sony) will run from today and until mid-2004, when full commercial service is expected to start. DoCoMo have lined up 27 e-payment service providers, including banks, convenience stores, TV broadcasters, game software publishers, and a retail ticketing outlet. There are already 17 million Japanese happily using Felica-based IC cards for train tickets and convenience store payments, many of whom have – surprise! – cell phones. We think the synergy and revenue potential of the two technologies is obvious – and so do DoCoMo’s accountants. Watch our first-on-the Web video report from Monday’s press event – and rethink your i-mode forecasts. Full Program Run-time 3:00
Samsung is shipping a high-end smartphone powered by embedded Linux from Mizi Research that supports both Chinese and English. The device is being distributed in China, initially, where it works with #2 China wireless provider Unicom’s CDMA2000 1x network. The Samsung SCH-i519 offers an impressive range of high-end PDA and smartphone features, including sophisticated voice-control capabilities. It currently sells for about $750.
Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa said it will launch its 3G mobile telephone services in the territory next month. The company’s managing director Canning Fok did not give an exact date for the 3G services but announced details on pricing. The company set the price of new 3G handsets at 4,380 Hong Kong dollars (560 US dollars) and monthly subscription fees at 238-558 dollars, Fok told reporters. Hutchison will be the first operator to launch a 3G service in Hong Kong.
NTT DoCoMo, Inc. announced today that it will launch a trial, called the “i-modeｮ FeliCa preview service,” using mobile phones equipped with FeliCa contactless IC chip technology developed by Sony Corporation. The phones will be used for public transport tolls, electronic money, personal identification and other trial services between December 17, 2003 and the summer of 2004.
The news is out that KDDI has decided to adopt Sony’s FeliCa, thus removing a major barrier to the contact less IC card’s promulgation outside of DoCoMo in Japan– and also bringing the technology into a major cdma carrier. For us at WWJ, this is the biggest news of the month! Last week we talked to Shusaku Maruko, Senior Manager of Sony’s FeliCa Business Center and got the lowdown on what FeliCa will be. Please wait for that program, and before that, we will post the only FeliCA i-mode service video available for you, our loyal subscribers, around in the world on or around December 17. Sorry to hype this, but you just can’t get our action anywhere else in the world and, Goddam, we are so happy!
In a decision that could be a huge boost for mobile phones to become e-wallets, KDDI has decided to adopt Sony Corp’s technology in smart cards for use in third-generation mobile phones that it will develop with Hitachi Ltd. This is wonderful news for chances of the evolution of the mobile phone’s morph into one of the so-called ubiquitous devices that Sony’s Idei has been promising for longer than hack journalists can remember. The news is out that KDDI has decided to adopt Sony’s FeliCa, thus removing a major barrier to the contact less IC card’s promulgation outside of DoCoMo in Japan, and also bringing the technology into a major cdma carrier.
NTT DoCoMo Inc. has admitted its first-ever weekly slip in i-mode subscriptions. According to DoCoMo records, it had 40,132,000 subscriptions to i-mode on Dec. 7, a drop of 12,000 compared to the total on Nov. 30, according to data published on its Web site.