Train 'em up early: kids' phones rock!

I was talking to my accountant last week; she’s a smart, self-employed mid-career professional with a husband and kids and she’s definitely one of the more practical-minded Europeans I know.

We were talking about ‘handys’ (keitai, in Germany), and I told her about the huge success the mobile Internet and 3G are having (still) in Japan, versus in Europe where no one’s making a single (Euro) cent on UMTS. Her reaction was typical, but interesting: “I’m not going to use the phone for sending mail or anything but talking. The keypad is far too tiny. It’s just not in the mindset of my generation.”

Year of the Pig Shaping up as Golden

What’s this?? … mobs of Flying Ketai Pigs..?

Actually, 2007 promises to be far more interesting than even that cheeky title! Here goes our official WWJ Fearless Forecast for 2007 – all in one – huge – breath!

2007 promises to be far more interesting than even that cheeky title! Here goes our official WWJ Fearless Forecast for 2007 – all in one – huge – breath! M-commerce: The carriers? FeliCa-based services will continue to grab serious market share. At the end of 2006, DoCoMo had over 1 mln customers for their DCMX mobile credit-card service alone, not to mention the 18.3 mn regular FeliCa handsets in use as of 31 December. KDDI and SoftBank have FeliCa user bases in the millions as well.. grab a cuppa for after the jump!

Japan's Mobile Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was… well, it really was the best of times! Also, as the famous line from Dickens goes, it was the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness and the season of.. Mobile!

Looking back on 2006, it’s hard to decide which news from Japan’s mobile scene was the most spectacular. Vodafone pulled out, Softbank stood up, mobile number portability struck, a record number of new handsets hit the street and – as December winds down – Motorola and Samsung are shipping first foreign-made 3G units into Japan.

A ‘quick’ look at what caught WWJ’s attention in ’06 after the jump.

SoftBank Mobile Reports Modest MNP Success

Japan’s mobile carriers aren’t in turmoil — not so far, anyway. But Mobile Number Portability (MNP) has brought the nearest thing yet to a consumer-facing market meltdown, and the No. 1 Agent of Change is undoubtedly Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Mobile.

The media, industry analysts and Japan Wireless Watchers everywhere have been hit with two sets of numbers in the past fortnight: the initial, media-and-analysts-only post-MNP subscriber churn numbers released on 31 October (one week after MNP start) by NTT DoCoMo and KDDI (SoftBank Mobile was silent), followed by the regular monthly release of overall subscriber numbers issued on 8 November by the TCA Telecommunications Carriers Association; keep in mind that the TCA release is based on self-reporting from the carriers).

Japan's Still the World's High-Tech Testbed

This past week, WWJ’s own Lawrence Cosh-Ishii, our hard-working director of digital media (and pretty much everything else in our humble shop), appeared on US Web radio program "Into Tomorrow," hosted by Dave Graveline. Dave and his crew pop over to Tokyo each year for the annual CEATEC consumer tech show, and he makes it his business to hook up with a slate of guests who can provide insidery gen on what’s happening in Japan…

DoCoMo September Presser: Nakamura Emphasizes 3G Coverage

The September presser with NTT DoCoMo’s President Nakamura contained some interesting bits of info on 3G coverage; WWJ subscribers can log in and listen to the entire event on MP3 audio (see today’s Viewpoint).

Yes, I know that there has been an ongoing drumbeat in the media reporting spotty coverage for FOMA users. But Nakamura devoted a lot of time to explaining their ongoing and upcoming base station and 3G FOMA network coverage plans, emphasizing that the carrier would boost coverage at “JR stations, universities, junior colleges and high schools.”

Mobile email rocks!

I’ve had some interesting discussions in the past ten days with folks in Japan, Europe and elsewhere on the topic of mobile email. The topic also came up at last Friday’s W2 Forum seminar on Japan and Korea (“Trends & Insights from Japan & Korea“), held in London and attended by a lively and interesting group of folks from publishers, content providers, media, analysts, ad agencies, tech vendors and others.

Japan Number Portability: The Autumn of Discontent

The hottest topic roiling Tokyo’s hot street this month is MNP – mobile number portability.

Details on pricing, dates and procedures that Japan’s carriers will follow to implement the regulator-mandated programme have been posted on WWJ in several items on this topic, including here, here and here.. Analysts, pundits and assorted commentators have all more or less concluded that the net winner will be KDDI/au, while the net loser will be DoCoMo (the jury is still out on Vodafone/SoftBank Mobile). At least some are attributing this pending negative migration to mere probability – as the carrier with the largest customer base, they argue, DoCoMo naturally stand to lose the biggest number of churners – all things being equal. But this analysis is weak and WWJ thinks..

Proof is in the Mobile Pudding

The good folks over at CIAJ (Communications and Information Network of Japan) issued a press item last week to announce results of their annual study on cellular phone use. According to CIAJ, “The study aims to capture on-going changes in the domestic mobile communications market and has been conducted since 1998.”

The study includes some interesting results related to actual usage of mobile Internet services, including email, music, GPS, mobile TV, e-wallets, number portability and more. The organization says they mailed questionnaires to 600 cellular phone users (male: 303, female: 297; by age group, under 20: 102, twenties: 101, thirties: 108, forties: 95, fifties: 95, sixties and above: 99) residing in the larger Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas from the end of March through April, 2006…