Vodafone Japan New 3G Phones: Details, Audio Interview

Last week was a rare clean sweep in Japan’s tooth-and-nail handset race as each of the Big Three carriers in turn announced multiple new 3G models at splashy press events. Across the field, we saw an onboard 4-GB hard drive and a digiTV phone from KDDI, the 702i ‘designer’ models from DoCoMo and Japan’s first Samsung phone and new 3G data services from Vodafone. Vodafone Japan New 3G Phones: Details, Audio Interview

It’s no simple coincidence that this week the carriers are announcing their third-quarter financial results: it’s super vital to have a flashy new set of handsets to point to when presenting your report card to the analysts in Tokyo and London. Also, spring is the premiere mobile sales season in Japan and the models announced last week should hit the streets around cheery blossom time.

If Vodafone Japan’s market troubles in the past couple of years can be blamed on handset mix, then the new phones may go a long way to to fixing Big Red’s market position. Today’s WWJ Portable Reportable MP3 audio report features an interview with Vodafone Japan from last week’s press event with in-depth details on their new 3G models, which include phones from Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp and NEC, and comments on competitive positioning in the market.

First Korean 3G Phone, New 3G Services for Vodafone KK

First Korean 3G Phone, New 3G Services for Vodafone KKAt a Tokyo press conference today, Vodafone Japan announced four new 3G terminals including a model provided by Korean maker Samsung. This is the first Samsung model to become available in Japan. The Vodafone V804SS (image at right) is said to be the world’s thinnest 3G handset and features a 2.3-in QVGA main LCD display, 2 cameras, stereo twin speakers, music features and the “Deru Moji” 3D Pictogram Display. The other handsets include models from Sharp (V804SH), NEC (V804N) and Toshiba (V904T).

The devices should be available in the market by mid-March.

With these latest models, Vodafone Japan also introduced three new 3G services: “Deru Moji 3D Pictogram Display,” which enables pop-up 3D animations in received messages and is compatible with the 804SS, 904T and 804N; the “Vodafone live! CAST” service, which delivers “mobile magazines” to handsets overnight and appears to be similar to KDDI’s modestly successful EZ Channel content delivery service (compatible with the 904T and 804N); and, the “Vodafone Address Book,” a service that lets customers back up their handset address book to a network server so information remains safe even when a handset is lost or broken (compatible with the 904T). WWJ subscribers log in for more details and images.

Gracenote and Muze Partner to Create Integrated Offering

Gracenote and Muze today announced a multi-year partnership to offer the industry’s most comprehensive and accurate global media identification and rich content solution for consumer electronics and mobile phone devices, as well as PC applications. Offering a comprehensive collection of content for entertainment products currently available in North America, Europe and other parts of the world, Muze provides album art, album reviews and artist biographies for the industry’s most influential and popular artists of all time. Integrating Muze’s award-winning editorial content with Gracenote’s industry-leading music identification technology, services and global information database will allow digital entertainment companies to easily offer their customers an enhanced media experience anywhere they ship products in the world.

Finally a Samsung Phone for Japan?

Seoul, Korea-based Samsung plans to sell phones to Vodafone K.K. by summer 2006, entering Japan’s $3.9 bn handset market for the first time, according to company officials involved with the talks. Sophia Kim, a Samsung spokeswoman, and Vodafone’s Tokyo-based spokesman Matthew Nicholson declined to comment. Vodafone Group already buys Samsung phones for markets outside of Japan. Interesting! We were just talking about this the other day! — Eds.

3G Network Limitations Define Mobile TV

3G Network Limitations Define Mobile TVIt’s rare for WWJ editors, a jaded bunch, to get too excited about new service announcements, but on 6 December, we jumped on this fresh Vodafone press release that seemed to herald the emergence of the rather cool, made-in-Japan ‘Vodafone Live! BB’ (BB= broadband) music- and video-download service into the Group’s European markets. Vodafone live! BB uses the ‘i-Pod model’ to get large media files onto mobile phones, avoiding network traffic fees and should be, we have always thought, a no-brainer for export to Vodafone Opcos outside Japan. Don’t mobilers everywhere want to save on packet/data fees and get audio and DVD-quality video onto their handsets?

Korean 3G Phone Finally Hits Japan Market

Korean 3G Phone Finally Hits Japan MarketKDDI/au has announced the roll-out of their A1405PT, made by Pantech & Curitel, will begin today in the Hokkaido region and throughout all areas of Japan over the weekend. The phone was jointly developed with KDDI and marks the first entry of a Korean maker’s handset into the Japanese market. Touted, at 98 grams, as the ‘lightest 3G handset’ available in the market, it comes with a limited set of features (only a VGA camera, for example), but it does have an organic EL “Stream Screen” sub-display and has a built-in crime prevention buzzer function, a feature which was also just introduced by DoCoMo (for good reason).

WWJ has been tracking rumours and hints on the entry of Korean terminals for some time now but this is hard fact on the ground. We have seen Sanyo and Casio pushing into the U.S. market along with Sharp and NEC making moves in Europe. It’s clearly becoming a two-way street with the recent launch of Motorola’s M-1000 with DoCoMo, who have also indicated that LG and Nokia models are in the pipeline.

Finding the Camera Phone Creator

Back in July of this year, analyst Jon Peddie was on a mission to find the inventor of the camera phone — a product category that is responsible for a significant portion of the current mobile phone boom. Peddie found the first camera phone, but couldn’t identify the precise inventor, and wasn’t sure if there even was a single person who could be found. TG Daily picked up where Peddie left off — and got lucky in Japan. (Seems it was not Sharp’s J-SH04 after all! — Ed.)

Starhub's EASi-Mode for Singapore

Even before its official launch, StarHub’s i-mode has more than 50 content providers on board. The list includes MediaCorp TV, MTV, OCBC Bank, Yahoo!, Far East Flora and Zuji Singapore. StarHub hopes to attract 50,000 users within the first year, but i-mode is a unique proposition. The service requires i-mode compatible phones from the likes of Samsung and NEC, so you cannot use other 2G or 3G handsets to access the service. StarHub will reveal full details to the press tomorrow.

Web Update: 18 Nov. DoCoMo PR confirms.

Japan Approves Three New Groups for 3G

Japan Approves Three New 3G CarriersBack in 1999, when I was editing Computing Japan magazine, we ran an article entitled “Third Generation Mobile: Three Groups for 3G” looking at the three groups — NTT DoCoMo, IDO-DDI (later, with KDD, KDDI) and IMT-2000 Planning Corp. (later J-Phone) — lining up for a new license. The prediction was that “success for the 3G business depends on the digital content.” Now, 7 years later, three new hopefuls are lining up in a far more mature market, and not only content but also terminals, churn, number portability and voice versus data will be significant factors.

On November 10, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said it would grant three new carriers licenses to operate in the 1.7 and 2 GHz bands; BB Mobile of Softbank Corp. and e-mobile of eAccess Ltd. will offer services based on W-CDMA technology while IPMobile Inc. will offer Japan’s first TD-CDMA-based services. The three are expected to launch later in 2006.

The three newcomers are entering a highly competitive market dominated by three existing incumbents: NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Vodafone K.K., which reported a collective 89.4 million subscribers as of October 31. The new players are expected to expand the variety of wireless services and pricing levels available, providing more choice and lowering costs — not least of all for terminals — according to one ministry quotation.