eMobile Unveils SmartPhone & Flat-rate Price Plan

eMobile Unveils SmartPhone & Flat-rate Price Plan by Mobikyo KKeMobile announced their debut package offering – complete with terminals, data cards and flat-rate HSDPA price plan – today at a Tokyo press conference with company representatives joined by notable industry partners including Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, Darren Huston, CEO of Microsoft Japan, and Masafumi Matsumoto, representative director from Sharp. The upstart carrier’s founder, chairman and CEO, Sachio Semmoto (who was co-founder of DDI, which became KDDI), called their newly introduced Sharp EM-One smartphone, “the next-generation mobile broadband device” – which was “designed to deliver always-on broadband at a reasonable monthly flat-rate price.”

The new Sharp terminal is bound to be popular with the same crowd who lined-up to get Willcom’s Zero3 model, also made by Sharp, in late 2005. The EM-One is a touch-screen qwerty-keyboard dual-slider device sporting a 4-inch LCD screen with Japan’s first WVGA (800×480)-resolution screen and Windows Mobile 5.0 (with all the typical office functions). At only 18mm thin, it even comes ready to watch 1Seg digital TV broadcasts and – according to the specs – the unit sports a Marvell PXA270 cpu running at 520MHz with 512MB of Flash memory and 128MB RAM. Perhaps most interesting are the rather agressive price plans, which bundle the device with fixed- and mobile-broadband connection services to attract new customers.

The company also announced four new data cards including a PC Card unit produced by NEC and a USB design coming from Huawei, which will run on the same high-speed network and tabehoudai all-you-can-eat billing model. The new services will be available starting 31 March in five major population areas including Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka and Kyoto. More details after the jump.

SoftBank Mobile Announces New 3G Phones

SoftBank Mobile Announces New 3G Phones by Mobikyo KKSoftBank Mobile rounded out the Japanese operators spring handset announcement rush this week by announcing a new fleet of models – Flash site Here – with major bling factor. According to the companies announcement most models will be available by March which is traditionally the busiest handset replacement month of the year in Japan as the new academic and fiscal year begins on April 1st. Masayoshi Son did his best Steve Jobs impersonation, black turtle-neck and all, however there was no announcement related to the recent news from MacWorld.

Models of interest include the 911T by Toshiba, a candybar slider with a huge 3-inch screen running on high speed HSDPA has a 3.2-megapixel camera, 1GB of internal memory, 1Seg digital tv, it’s FeliCa m-commerce enabled and comes complete with a pair of Oakley Thumps which connect via bluetooth. Other new handset highlights include; the 812SH Pantone series by Sharp (pictured right) with 20 different colors to choose from, the 812T Kodomobile model designed especially for children and Nokia’s E-61 Communicator – labeled as X01NK – which has Japanese Kanji text input and comes Wi-Fi enabled.

There are three new phones from Samsung including the 708SC slider which claims the title for the worlds thinnest 3G handset at a mere 8.4mm thick and the 707SC Swarovski Crystal version which is a follow-up to the earlier 705SH model [.jpg image] which sold-out the day it was launched last fall.

There have been over 30 new handset models announced by the three main operators during the last week for content and application developers, industry wags and ultimately the marketplace at large to chew over.. whew! WWJ subscribers login for more comments, photos and a video-link to watch the actual presentation (70 minute runtime) from the press conference held in Shinagawa on Thursday.

KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007

 KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007 by Mobikyo KK

KDDI announced their spring 2007 handset line-up this week with ten new 3G models focused on form and function. The latest addition to their Au Design Project, the Media Skin concept by Tokujin Yoshioka, was introduced along with this announcement that it will go on display with earlier offerings – the Infobar, Talby and Neon – at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The other models on deck are coming from Toshiba (W51T and W52T), Casio (W51CA), Sanyo (W51SA), Kyocera (W51K), Hitachi (W51H), Sony Ericsson (W51S), the second-ever model from Sharp (W51SH) – a popular design originally introduced by Vodafone in spring 2006 (and also recently available from DoCoMo) – plus a first-time offer by top-tier maker Panasonic (W51P).

The W52T, a candybar slider with a wide VGA 480×800 resolution 3-inch screen, a 3.2-megapixel camera and 1GB of on-board memory [.jpg image] stood out as quite impressive during our quick test drive. An immediate and interesting observation is that eight of the ten handsets are 1 Seg digital-TV enabled, which should clearly signal (pardon the pun) that KDDI is bullish on broadcast TV content and services. Otherwise, most have the FeliCa mobile wallet function and the usual goodies such as GPS, PC Site Viewer, Hello Messenger and – of course – all units are running on BREW and come with the EZ suite of mobile content (books, games, auctions etc.) and are LISMO music ready.

The carriers and handset makers are pumping full blast with mobile number portability pushing everyone to improve and deliver better product offering. DoCoMo also announced ten new phones this week while SoftBank is expected to introduce their line-up soon as well. March is traditionally the busiest handset replacement month of the year in Japan, as the new academic and fiscal year begins April 1st; we’ll be looking forward to the official TCA subscriber results.

 KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007 by Mobikyo KK

DoCoMo Introduces 703i Series with Ten New 3G Handsets

DoCoMo Introduces 703i Series with Ten New 3G Handsets by Mobikyo KKDoCoMo today announced the development of new 3G FOMA handsets – the 703i-series plus the D800iDS and SO903iTV. The 703i-series consists of eight models: N703i, P703i, D703i, F703i, N703iD, P703i, SH703i and SO703i. Most of the models are extra slim, with the N703i (image at right) and P703i being the thinnest 3G clamshell handsets in the world, at 11.4mm each, as of 15 January 2007 (and according to the company).

Our Wireless Watch Japan Web Video Triple Play article posted 10 November has a quick shot of Natsuno-san with these new extra-slim handsets.

The new 703i-series handsets made by NEC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Sharp, Fujitsu and Sony Ericsson have features ranging from full-track music, Mega Appli gaming and DCMX mobile commerce to document viewer and full mobile web browser. A couple of interesting design notes; Fujitsu’s F703i model is water-proof and claims to be completely safe in the shower while Mitsubishi’s D703i is Japan’s thinnest candybar-style cellphone available, at 9.9mm thick.

DoCoMo also unveiled the SO903iTV handset equipped with a high-resolution LCD using BRAVIA technology and high-quality audio for viewing “One-segment” (1 Seg) terrestrial digital TV broadcasts. In addition the company announced the D800iDS [.jpg image], which according to the press materials, is a world-first cellphone with two full screens – a conventional upper screen and a touch-screen instead of the traditional lower keypad. The N703iD will be marketed on 26 January. The other 703i-series models and D800iDS are planned to be sold in February, while the SO903iTV is scheduled to be launched in June.

We have images with full details after the jump.

Has Apple Started a Mobile Computing Revolution?

Has Apple Started a Mobile Computing Revolution?By now everyone who can read knows that the big news in wireless this week was the announcement for “Steve’s Amazing New Device”. We’ve had several queries for comment over the last couple of days and reluctantly have decided to offer a few thoughts on his so-called ‘future of mobile handsets’. One might be forgiven for asking “what does this development have to do with Japan” but it was actually the LA Times who started it. Also related, the early rumors swirling in May last year – which were quickly denied – that we would see SoftBank Mobile roll-out Apple Computer Inc.’s new gear here in 2006. If Jobs & Co. actually plan to hit their 10 million sales target, or just 1% of the global share, then a 3G enabled unit for advanced markets like Japan has to be part of their 2007 roadmap.

So, what do we think. After the rough ride WWJ gave RIM got for their market entry Blackberry device, you shouldn’t expect any glowing Mac fan boy type ravings from us. However, there certainly is one definite and positive aspect to this whole discussion.. Awareness. Before getting into specific pro’s and cons of the device itself – as described at launch – for just a moment lets consider the obvious impact on the general marketplace. The very nature of this high-profile move into mobile computing will, as they say, simply have to raise all boats. As more people are exposed to the possibilities of consuming content and services in the wireless arena, better product offerings will no doubt follow. That being said, HTC’s smartphone (video here), running Windows mobile with a full qwerty sliding keyboard and touch screen entry (pointer included), has been available from both DoCoMo and SoftBank in Japan since mid-2006. So it’s somewhat difficult to understand the ‘revolutionary design’ aspect as things already seem well underway.

There are several issues (beyond the no 3rd party apps) at first blush; for starters a touch screen as the ‘only’ input feature – can you say finger grease – seems to ignore the common reality of text messaging. It should be quite interesting to see how they have designed the UI for those big dumb fingers to type e-mail. Battery power will be another major challenge with that nice big screen, especially since it will be running a cpu hungry mobile version of OSX. As most readers should recall the locked-down battery saga with the early iPods, clearly their rev. 1 model of this handset might well be disappointing in that area after 12 months of routine daily usage as well.

It’s an easy prediction that it will be one of the Top Stories in 2007 and we are looking forward to
follow the product and it’s market evolution. The company has taken a very public step into this new space and considering the past success of their mobile music product offerings it should help to breath some fresh air into the telecom industry.

Digital TV for Mobile in Japan – 1H Review

Digital TV for Mobile in Japan - 1H Review A recent report focusing on the faltering Korean DVB-H market lead us to wonder how the user experience, and business model, compares with the service launched here in Japan on April 1st. Several items stand out as either very similar or completely opposite.

Many studies over the years point to the fact that mobile user habits vary much less from region to region than assumed by most industry pundits. Of course there are at least some notable differences, however – by and large – people are people, and in-depth research has routinely shown common ground across cultures and classes.

The predictable differences become more apparent as business models are implemented that encourage, or restrict, access or behavior in any given product or service offering. The cost and availability – let alone need – of any new mobile initiative will obviously have an impact on its adoption rate.

When digital TV for mobile (1SDB-T) debuted here this spring, the business model had several notable features: all channels are free to view and the broadcast content is exactly the same as already available – also at no cost – on users’ home TV sets.

While many have questioned the logic of this seemingly non-profit (yet costly) experiment, the ministry, carriers and broadcasters have carefully developed a strategic long-term vision for the successful deployment of mobile TV in Japan.

One thing is for sure: the hype surrounding this next-gen area knows no borders and markets overseas are also struggling with the myths and realities of this segment’s risks and opportunities.

Wireless Watch Japan's Web Video Triple Play

Wireless Watch Japan’s Web Video Triple PlayIt’s been a fairly hectic six weeks for Japan’s mobile industry and therefore also for us here at WWJ. Starting with the Tokyo Game Show here in late September, followed in short order by CEATEC and DoCoMo’s new 903i-series launch — and combined with the MNP (mobile number portability) official launch on 24 October — it’s been crazy.

Your WWJ staff have also been deep into planning next week’s Mobile Intelligence Japan (MIJ) mission, due to start on Sunday afternoon and we have over 250 folks registered for our next Mobile Monday event at the Canadian embassy on Monday 13 November! Phew!

We know how much everyone enjoys watching our web video programs and so we’ve bundled a few together that were finally produced over the last little while. The Tokyo Game Show was, as always and then some, a super event this year, celebrating their 10th anniversary and was held at Makuhari Messe; WWJ saw previews of DoCoMo’s 903i “Mega Games” while KDDI was running a massive (mobile) multiplayer Bomberman exhibit and SoftBank Mobile stepped out if full force with a wide selection of games targeted at Sharp’s 905SH handset.

Also, we have added our video coverage from DoCoMo’s new 903i-series launch, which introduced a whopping 14 new handsets complete with some interesting 3G data service upgrades as well.

Finally, DoubleClick Japan introduced their “Mobile MK” software and were kind enough to show us a full demo. — Yoroshiku!

Video Round-up: Ultra-cool Mobile Tech at Tokyo's CEATEC 2006

Video Round-up: Ultra-cool Mobile Tech at Tokyo’s CEATEC 2006Last week, Tokyo’s annual CEATEC show (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) was once again a showcase for some of the coolest mobile technology on Planet Earth. Today’s video round-up features audio QR, Fujitsu’s ‘UB Wall‘ – an ultra-high-tech, one-to-one customized video advertising display – and FP codes, and – not to be missed – NTT DoCoMo’s 3G mobile-based ‘Drunk Driver’ detector, apparently in high demand by bus companies and trucking firms.

Organizers said that the consumer electronics event drew 550,732 during the public days, 4-7 October, while WWJ ducked in out of the torrential rain during the press & industry day on 3 October, when the crowds weren’t quite as waku (wild).

WWJ thinks the FP codes (essentially, invisible barcodes) and audio QR technology stands a pretty good chance of fast adoption, given the masses of rabid advertising agencies out there trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of (a) camera phones that grab info via QR code and (b) digital broadcasting. An audio QR code is simply broadcast as metadata in a digital audio signal, such that the browser displays text, a clickable URL or other advertising message while you listen to a radio or tv program on a suitably enabled mobile phone. But for sheer outdoor-advertising-meets-mobile marketing genius, the UB Wall can’t be beat!

Number Portability – DoCoMo Relying on Napster Japan

DoCoMo relies on Napster by Mobikyo KKDespite the resounding silence from DoCoMo’s website, Tower Records (part-owned by DoCoMo) have just introduced a joint-venture service with Napster in Japan. The Tower Records Japan-Napster JV will provide music distribution services for PC and mobile from an initial catalogue of 1.5 million songs. The initial service launch only allows content purchased by premium subscribers – a subscription costs 1,980 JPY per month – to be moved from the PC to mobile devices – and at this time only one handset (F902is) is supported.

DoCoMo took a 42 percent share of Tower Records here in November 2005 and – if the on-scene hype at DoCoMo’s booth at this week’s CEATEC consumer electronics show is any guide – they appear ready to announce a more aggressive mobile music device line-up in the coming weeks.

The Tower Records initiative appears not unrelated to DoCoMo’s overall mobile music strategy, which has so far run a distant second to mobile market leader KDDI/au.

Since 2002, KDDI have seen strong traffic, sales and handset popularity with their Chaku Uta, Chaku Uta Full, and Chaku Motion full-track audio and video offering. More recently, their new ‘LISMO’ unified PC/mobile content download and syncing service has started to gain customers, while DoCoMo have only this year in June started pushing Chaku Uta Full.

SoftBank Mobile Comes Out Swinging

WWJ Editors, 28 September 2006
SoftBank Mobile Comes Out Swinging by Mobikyo KKThe long summer silence from SoftBank on the rebranding of Vodafone K.K. to SoftBank Mobile is over with no less than 12 press releases issued today in advance of the official launch on 1 October. The company has introduced 13 new handsets, a variety of updated service offerings and new personnel. As mobile number portability (MNP) arrives on 24 October, and with strong competition from market leader NTT DoCoMo and No. 2 carrier KDDI, the struggling former Vodafone franchise clearly needed to get their house in order.

Some little-known news: Industry insiders here were surprised to learn in late August that the long-time head of Qualcomm Japan, Ted Matsumoto, had moved over to SoftBank taking on the title of CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) for Masayoshi Son’s newly minted celco. The official announcement was made during a wide ranging press conference that also introduced Cameron Diaz as the star attraction for their new advertising campaign that planned to blitz TV and outdoor ads over the coming weeks.

On the network front, they have announced that ‘Super 3G’ (HSDPA), with availability limited to the greater Tokyo area, will start in October to service their new HTC – X01HT smartphone. This Windows Mobile-enabled unit will default to regular W-CDMA (or GSM/GPRS overseas) in areas without high-speed coverage. The company also announced new applications and services ranging from the widely expected Yahoo Mobile Search integration, “Hot Talk” instant messenger, a “3D Town” event guide map, and – finally – a “Live Monitor” scrolling text push service.