Some of Japan's Cool New Apps
Some of Japan's Cool New Apps

Some of Japan's Cool New Apps

Some of Japan's Cool New Apps

In a telephone interview with a research company in Toronto last night, I was asked for examples of the coolest new applications or services in Japan. Without a doubt, I answered, mobile music and the Chaku Uta Full song download services are really eating up packet bandwidth. The week before last, KDDI announced that the cumulative downloads for EZ Chaku Uta Full (provided via the CDMA 1X EV-DO WIN network) had surpassed 3 million as of 1 March 2005, less than four months after the 19 November 2004 launch. The company added that the 1 million and 2 million milestones were achieved on 5 January and 5 February, respectively.

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There are 10 sites supporting EZ Chaku Uta Full providing access to approximately 13,000 songs (there are additional sites for FOMA via i-mode as well). There are other WIN-branded content offerings (i.e. content optimized for the 1X EV-DO bandwidth) as well, and you can take an interesting if somewhat lengthy Flash tour here. KDDI set up a new division, the Media Business Department, last year so as to focus on WIN-branded content services; no ties are allowed — possibly the first casual dress code ever at a traditionally ultra-buttoned down Japanese cellco.

And on the topic of cool applications, WWJ’s partner Jan Michel Hess from Mobile Economy and I have been planning which 3G handsets we’ll purchase and rent for the upcoming Mobile Intelligence Tour in April. Earlier today we asked long-time Tokyo technophile and all-round very knowledgeable mobiler Andrew Shuttleworth from tabemo if he’d mind picking us up one of the very cool new “Penck” designer models from the aforementioned KDDI WIN line-up.

We got into a discussion comparing the Penck to the Casio W21CA, and Andrew replied: “To confirm: the Penck is 23,000 Yen, so is much more expensive [than the Casio model at about 9,000 Yen]. Although it looks very cool, it actually feels cheap and plasticy so I was disappointed at that. The screen for some reason also feels small at 2.2 inches. The Casio screen swivels 180 degrees for a cool viewing experience; it has everything the Penck has plus a much higher-quality feel, a 2-meg[apixel] camera (compared to 1.24), a PC site viewer (although you have to pay packet charges when using this) and movie editing. Shame it doesn’t have Bluetooth, a TV and a radio but I guess you can’t have everything… ;-)”

He added he was shocked that he couldn’t find EX Naviwalk mentioned anywhere in the latest brochure. “I then realized all the phones support it and it had become so standard they hardly made a point of it,” said Andrew.

Nonetheless, the Penck is one of KDDI’s top designer models and makes up in form-factor cool what it may lack in raw application horsepower (anyone who drops by KDDI’s new showroom in Harajuku can try one out for real).

Looks like some features — like EZ Naviwalk (the voice read-out navigation guidance system that uses GPS) — are now so common on KDDI phones that it’s tough to market them as anything new or special. Another interesting point is that in the latest monthly product brochure, only 4 out of some 20 KDDI phones still support Java — all others are exclusively BREW.

There are, of course, other cool new apps and features. These include:

  • KDDI’s EZ Channel overnight-download video programming service (now with 36 channels including X Games from Disney)
  • Vodafone’s twin stereo speakers on the 902T and their Vodafone live! BB music download service, which allows multi-megabyte songs to be downloaded to a home PC and then transferred to the handset via memory card
  • DoCoMo’s 3D surround sound on their new 901i-series
  • DoCoMo’s Mobile FeliCa and the just-announced Mobile Suica contactless payment systems
  • Sanyo’s “Sweets” handset with the “Pair” function that sends a GPS-generated map to a parent’s PC showing the handset’s location whenever a mail is sent (so you can — literally — keep track of your teen kid’s location)
  • Omron’s face recognition feature, not yet in a handset but likely soon

My aim is to make sure we see all or at least most of these handsets and applications in action when the MIT hits Tokyo next month, but if we don’t, we’ll certainly ensure WWJ covers these in upcoming programs or articles (we’ve got a video showing how the EZ Channel service works in final edit now).

Speaking of which, WWJ Director of Digital Media Lawrence Cosh-Ishii just Skyped me to say he’ll have the program from the opening of KDDI’s new Harajuku consumer showroom — one of planet Earth’s most intense mobile locations — ready to go for later this week; make sure you check WWJ by Friday for a peek.

— Daniel Scuka

PS: WWJ will once again organize Mobile Monday in Tokyo, Monday, 18 April 2005, in conjunction with the Mobile Intelligence Tour. There will be more details next week, but mark off that evening on your calendar. NOTE: April’s MoMo will be held at a much larger, more comfortable location in view of the large number that attended last time (there were over 120 mobile professionals at the February event for a rock’in good time!). If your company is keen to sponsor MoMo, drop me a line on Skype: