3G FOMA 901i Launch
The 901i-series of 3G FOMA cell phones is DoCoMo’s latest tactical weapon in Japan’s escalating “lighter and smarter” mobile arms race. The four 901i handsets come packed with sophisticated go-go fun: twin stereo speakers and spatially enhanced sound; fat video and music files (500KB); pre-loaded games from Square Enix, Capcom and others; FeliCa smart-card e-wallet functions (in three models); 2-megapixel cameras; a TV guide for accessing TV program listings as far as eight days in advance (in one model) with genre and keyword searches including customized settings and registration for favorite TV shows plus it doubles as a remote control for TVs, DVD-Ds and VTR machines. Wow!
Wireless Watch eyeballed the 901i cellys during DoCoMo’s launch event at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel and today’s program provides, we think, a sense-surround experience, zooming in on 3D sound and video functions.
Smart handsets are cool; development costs are chilling
Telecoms and electronics makers are in danger of becoming economic road kill, victims of their own brilliant technology steam rolling down the mobile development toll way.
The price tag for creating new 3G mobile phones typically runs to billions of yen (as much as 10 bn in one Asahi Shimbun estimate). Think companies can recoup at the retail level? Forget about it — competition has sent handset prices tumbling. Japanese (and Koreans) are the most sophisticated mobile consumers on the planet; they know a buyers’ market when they see one. A typical 3G phone priced at 30,000 yen in Akihabara can be bargained down to half that. These are tough margins to swallow for cellcos and manufacturers alike, but what can they do? WWJ thinks there is no going back.
Unsurprisingly, Big D’s competitors have their own arsenal of mobile weaponry aimed at the mobile-using public.
Last year, KDDI launched four new handsets equipped with Chaku Uta Full music download functions and sometime in 2005 we should see cell phones equipped for digital terrestrial TV.
New handsets from Vodafone Japan are fat with 3G features including access to Vodafone live! BB, a sophisticated encrypted content distribution system for music, TV and more. Debuting tomorrow, Vodafone’s V802N (by NEC) showcases the company’s “Picture Voice” feature for adding voiceovers to photos; the just-out Sharp V603SH comes with a built-in 3-D motion control sensor that recognizes and responds to movements — potentially creating a whole new aspect of mobile gaming (point your phone to shoot).
But 3G handsets aren’t all fun and games. KDDI will premier Toshiba’s new ubiquitous viewer software in March. It provides cell-phone access to any Windows-OS-based home or office computer, productivity software (like MS Office), PC-based email, Internet browsers and other PC applications.
Quarterly financial data from all three carriers reflect what has become a marketplace overcrowded with options (see “Notable Revelations from Japan’s Cellcos“).
Hoping to attract more 3G users, DoCoMo have decided to cut suggested retail prices to retailers by as much as 10,000 yen on new 3G handsets. Set to debut in mid-February, the new 700i 3G keitais will have many of the 901i features but will be stripped of the FeliCa e-wallet function. (And WWJ wonders if this is the only motive — Ed.)
DoCoMo have set up a 901i subsite, at: http://901i.nttdocomo.co.jp/index.html
Enjoy today’s videocast and take it as a sign of more interesting things to come in Japan’s 3G world in 2005.
— Gail Nakada