iPhone 3GS Keeps No.1 In Japan On Its 2nd Week

This is a follow-up article on the news of iPhone sales in Japan.

BCN weekly ranking [J] is updated and now we are seeing a weekly ranking for June 29th to July 5th.

BCN Japan cellphone sales ranking 2009-07-07
BCN Japan cellphone sales ranking 2009-07-07

The newly introduced iPhone 3GS 32GB stays at the top position, whilst the 16GB loses No.2 position taken back by Sharp SH-06A.

Although over 100 types of new cellphones are sold in year in Japan, luckily for Apple/Softbank there were only two new other Softbank cellphones [J] released during the week, Sharp 935SH (ranked No.82) and Panasonic 931P (No.99). If they can keep this high rank more and more weeks, iPhone will be the real No.1 cellphone in Japan this year.

The next week, iPhone 3GS will face off against another smartphone, DoCoMo’s first Android phone HTC HT-03A [J] on July 10th, which I personally don’t think making huge success, again by not supporting Japanese standard functions.

This is DoCoMo’s “quick spec table” which shows customers what features the cellphone support. The red ones are supported.

DoCoMo Android HT-03A spec sheet
DoCoMo Android HT-03A spec sheet

You can compare it with DoCoMo’s other latest cellphones from this listing page [J]. All are in Japanese but click any cellphone images give you the same spec chart with a lot more red in each page.

Masayoshi Son Retrospects A Meeting With Steve Jobs About Cellphone iPod Idea

At the iPhone 3GS launch event in Omotesando, Tokyo, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a story about when he talked an idea of combining iPod and cellphone to Steve Jobs.

According to Son, he had a meeting with jobs in 4,5 years ago, which is before he bought the Japan’s third biggest cellphone company from Vodafone. There he told Jobs about his intention either to establish or buy cellphone company in Japan, and asked if Apple could make a new device which combines their popular music player iPod and cellphone. Jobs answered to Son that he actually had been thinking the same idea.

He also announced that the nation’s superstar group SMAP is cast as their Softbank Mobile’s brand character, stepping into Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt‘s shoes.

via iPhone 3G Wiki blog [J]

Japanese Government Proposes Pandemic Tracking System By Cellphone GPS


Japan’s Ministry of Affairs and Communications (MIC) calls several projects starting in 2009 as part of the ICT Standard Development Project.

Among the three big categories [J], one of the 11 themes in the “Cyber District” operation is “Cellular phone Lifelog”, which targets to draw up the rules for time-space data utilization.

In particular, as proving tests, it is suggested to utilize cellular phone GPS data for pandemic prevention.

According to Asahi.com, which reports more detail than MIC’s release, this experiment involves around 2,000 cellphone users both in urban and rural towns. All monitors’ location are recorded in database with time information, then, by assuming one of them gets infected with disease, the system is supposed to track down the possible encounters on the same train and bus, then send an e-mail alert to those suspects’ cellphone.

Teenager Prefer Cellphone Keypad to PC Keyboard


For many Japanese adolescents, cellphone is inseparable partner of their lives, you might have heard. Different from PC, kids can have their own (not-shared with your family/siblings, not filtered by home-broadband), can bring it with you to school, outside, anywhere (it is important when your writing back within 5 minutes to your friend’s mail is the only way to prove your true friendship). The largest Social Network Mixi already got more page views from cellphone than from PC (and #2 Mobage and #3 Gree are mainly on mobile).

Some are said to write their college reports by e-mail on cellphone. (*1) (*2) (*3)

For those cellphone-adapted youth, PC’s QWERTY keyboard does not necessary be the best input device. They had to use PC keyboard fewer times on their computer class, however, 0-to-9 number pads are more familiar, even faster way for them.

If number pads in cellphone order is more convenient, some youth feel easier to use it even for PC. Yes, there are some solutions.

Keiboard+IE is USB external keyboard having cellphone-keypads, mouse-like joy pad and many short cut buttons (for IE, as its name implies).


The same company Mevael are going to sell the new and more compact version, Keiboard+C, with which you can also change 3 cards for PC-type 10 keys and mouse-like direction pad. It will be shipped in January 2009.



There is also a “software” solution. For example, the shareware Beru-Uchi changes your PC 10-keys into cellphone arrangement.


PC’s 10-keys are assigned with cellphone pads arrangement

This supports regular cellphone input and pager-originated combined methods which some cellphone support as more efficient and rapid method.

If you are interested in how cellphone pads can be used for making Japanese text, this movie gives you outline.

Actually, these alternatives for cellphone youth are not so popular. One reason is they have no strong motivation to migrate to PC.

And even though cellphone is easier for them, at some point they have to get used to PC culture, when they need to write more complicated documents with images/drawings, spreadsheets and presentations, usually for their graduation thesis, and when applying their first jobs. That is so-called becoming an adult, at least in 2008.

I do not know if the future that office work are processed on cellphone happens or not.

(*1) Cellphone novel contest held in Hokkaido University (which is fairly good one) in 2005 already reported [pdf, J] there were few students submitted their report by cellphone e-mail.

(*2) Prof. Hideki Sunahara, who is also a board member of Mozilla Japan, told that university students send their report via cellphone mail [J] in 2007.

(*3) There are even a story of student who wrote up their graduation thesis via cellphone mail. This story often comes up in people’s conversations, but only source I could find are tabloid articles without school name given. Probably is this Japanese urban legend?

See Also:

Keiboard+C brochure [pdf, J]

Tomorrow’s Rainbow: 86-year old Japanese nun writes cell phone novel

Novels and poetry written, bought and read on cell phones are nothing unusual in mobile phone-crazy Japan.

Now it came to light that Jakucho Setouchi, a 86-year old Buddhist nun has written a long-running cell phone novel series (keitai shousetsu in Japanese) without disclosing her real name for several months.

Setouchi is an accomplished writer and currently lives in a Buddhist temple in Iwate prefecture, Northern Japan. She is well-known for her translation of Tale of Genji, said to be the world’s first novel (written in the early 11th century).

The digital love story, which is entitled Ashita No Niji, Tomorrow’s rainbow, is the first she has written on a cell phone. Setouchi chose “Purple” as an alias and began writing the novel in May this year. The story was distributed to Japanese cell phone users in several chapters and finally came to an end just this month. You can take a look here [JP].

Japanese publisher Mainichi started selling the digital novel in print form last week. The book, which is priced at 1,050 Yen (10 USD/7.30 Euros) and available at Amazon Japan, for example, is 248 pages long in 19×12.6x 2.4cm format.

Is iPhone App Store really unique and advanced?

Wall Street Journal reported about how iPhone is not going well in Japan market.

Like elsewhere, Japanese consumers lined up at stores in advance of the phone’s release on July 11, and many locations sold out almost immediately.

Well, in Japan, the hype was somehow “produced”. As far as I heard, Softbank gathered 1,500 iPhone shipment to its flagship store at Omotesando, Tokyo and that information was known to loyal Apple fans beforehand, eventually they lined up there. The long line was made up only there, CEO Masayoshi Son went there and media chased him to there. iPhone Guy was there, too.

At most of stores, small amount of iPhone were assigned, like 10 or 20. It is not strange they were “sold out”. An A-list blogger Masato Kogure (Netafull) went to his local store on the morning, there were only 5 customers on the line for 10 provided iPhone for the shop. Unoh CEO Shintaro Yamada wrote that there were only 6 iPhones sold at Softbank shop Shibuya-mall (only 10 minutes walk from Omotesando) and he could buy it by waiting 4 hours from that morning. Even though big media reported it similarly, the real sale and the number of involved customers were not same as other release-day frenzy like Wii and PS3.

Sales have been slowed by the iPhone’s relatively high price and the fact that Japan is already home to some of the world’s most advanced cellphones. The iPhone’s limited success so far shows how tough it continues to be for foreign manufacturers to crack the Japanese cellphone market.

When iPhone 3G was released in Japan, I sorted out feature comparisons of iPhone 3G and Japanese cellphones.

I agree that feature set does not always mean the product’s total superiority. But for me, only better things on iPhone seemed its well-reputed design and new different user interface, with knowing many functions crazily packed in latest Japanese cellphones.

One iPhone feature that is unique even to Japanese users is the App Store, Apple’s online clearinghouse for software, such as games and reference guides. The App Store is popular among U.S. users, but hasn’t taken hold as much in Japan, where consumers tend to be more cautious about making purchases online.

This is totally WSJ’s misunderstanding. Japanese cellphone users have been purchasing cellphone applications a lot for years.

NTT DoCoMo’s iAppli (started 2001) offers thousands official applications. Also user can create and distribute their own application on Java ME, which specification is open for everyone. No Jailbreak is needed. It is better to become official provider if you sell paid-application because NTT DoCoMo will collect fee on top of cellphone bill, but for free applications you do not need any approval process, just place it on your web server.

No.2 KDDI au also has Java ME and Brew (which is hard for non-official development) application platform ez Appli, Softbank Mobile offers S! Appli (EXCEPT for iPhone 3G).

I inquired NTT DoCoMo the number of official iAppli applications, but their answer is that is not disclosed. According to Appli-Get, one of popular directory portal sites for cellular phone applications,

number of applications for major 3 carieers are following,

Official Apps User Apps
DoCoMo iAppli 6959 4796
KDDI ezAppli/Brew 3840 1139
S! Appli 4698 3138

Of course, these numbers do not show the whole applications, as not all cellular phone applications are registered there. Some application providers develop the same title for 2 or all carieers. So total number of mobile application is not known, but should be bigger than these.

And, those appli-s are not only application you get. Flash on cellphone browser is used even more, especially if you do not earn by applications themselves (it is more difficult to charge for Flash usage. Flash is used more with advertisement model.). The biggest social network and game service Mobage Town provides new casual Flash games every week, so do competitors.

Comparatively speaking, iPhone App Store has only 3 thousands applications in total, for all countries/languages. Although having thousands in 2 months is a great achievement of Apple, number of Japanese-supported iPhone Applications is far less than thousand (I guess. I could not find the way of counting iTunes App Store by application language).

Small cellphone vendors cannibalizing in the small (but still profitable) domestic market and unable to go oversea is a huge problem in Japan, which everyone in industory here noticed and worried. But the first iPhone 3G was not the remedy for many Japanese mobile users, though its being unique and different is a good stimulus for both Japanese vendors and users to rethink about ideal mobile gear.

Mobage Town forays into PC web from mobile

Mobage Town, the Japan’s largest mobile social networking service(SNS) launched their “PC version” website on July 24th 2008.

Mobage Town has made a totally new field “Cellularphone Social Network based on free games” and that success called many followers like GREE mobile, Puchige(Petit Game) Friends, Daishugou NEO, etc.

PC SNS leader Mixi, has been providing their mobile version for years, and now gives favorable treatment to mobile phone users for easier registration process by utilizing traceable subscriber ID given to each cellularphone. Now two giants are ready to make inroads into each other’s main field.

Their PC version has very strange design unless you are familiar with its original cellular phone version. Even on PC browser, it is trying to keep the same style, proportion with its mobile vesion. Your PC browser is taller so less scroll needed, but basically they look same.

Here is the Mobage Town PC’s top page,

Original menus, icons, emoji (graphical letters) are reproduced. It is like a cellularphone emulator. Some features are not available, such like news, ringertone and the biggest one, Flash games. At this point, the PC site is provided for communication – to read (ketai-novels, friends’ diaries, bbs) and write the same contents with mobile. Not all Mobage-Town users are mobile-only, nor mobile-preferred, this PC site will help older generation who likes PC keyboard more to use the service.

See Also:

DeNA’s announcement for PC site closed-beta on July 2nd 2008 [J, pdf]

Official Launch announcement on Mobage Town PC [J]