The Nikkei: KDDI To Start Offering The iPad Mini From November

The existence of a smaller version of the iPad hasn’t even been confirmed by Apple yet, but here is something fresh from the rumor mill in Japan: according to a report published in The Nikkei today, KDDI is currently “finalizing a deal” under which the company will start offering the “iPad Mini” from November.

So far, rival SoftBank has been the sole 3G service provider for the iPad in Japan. The country’s third largest carrier also monopolized the domestic iPhone market until Apple tied up with KDDI, too, in October last year.

One year later, it looks like history repeats itself, but this time with a tablet.

If the Nikkei report is to be believed, KDDI asked Apple to sell the current generation of the iPad in Japan earlier this year as well, but the deal fell through.

The paper is not ruling out the possibility that SoftBank will offer the iPad Mini along with KDDI.

As a reaction to the rumor, KDDI stock rose today at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, while shares of SoftBank fell.

SoftBank Starts Using The 900MHz “Platinum Band”

There can be no doubt that SoftBank is the mobile carrier with the weakest network among Japan’s big three telcos, following that of NTT Docomo and KDDI. But now there is hope that things will finally change for the better.

Back in March this year, the Japanese government decided to allocate the 900-megahertz band (also dubbed “platinum band”) to SoftBank. And yesterday, the company finally started using the band, with plans to set up a total of 42,000 compatible base stations all over Japan by 2019.

Users can check the areas that are serviced by visiting this website (it looks like large parts of Greater Tokyo will get covered by September this year).

SoftBank, which currently has 30 million subscribers, expects cost for the network upgrade to amount to around US$10.5 billion.

Last month, the Japanese government allocated another “platinum band” to Docomo, KDDI, and eAccess: SoftBank’s rivals plan to use the 700-megahertz band for their LTE services from 2015.


The World’s First Radiation Counter Cellphone Announced In Japan

Softbank announced today(May 29) that they would ship Pantone 5(107SH) the world’s first smartphone with radiation measure feature in July.

By this Sharp’s made Android 4.0 smartphone, you may measure gamma rays in the 0.05μSv/h to 9.99μSv/h range just by pressing the dedicated button for long. You may let it measure periodically and plot the history on map.

After the Eastern Japan Disasters on March 11, 2011, leaked radioactive from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants has been worried a lot, and home-use radiation counters are subject to increase demand.

As always as a Japanese phone, it has one-seg TV, wireless-touch e-wallet(Osaifu ketai), bluetooth and infra-red communication, emergency alert and waterproof (PX5/IPX7) feature.

The cellphone also comes with 8 colour variations.

[Update] It’s not “geiger counter” as some major English tech blogs describes, it is said to use a silicon sensor.

Home radiation counters have been causing lots of false rumors by inaccurate usage and wrong interpretations of measured numbers among risk-averse Japanese, who do not believe any measurement provided by government organizations.

There is a background that Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is showing strong interest in entering alternative energy business. He insists government should subsidize solar power generation business a lot more, which is being discussed now and the suggested aided-price is criticized too high by some people. Softbank said to Nikkei that this function is implemented by Son’s own decision as he received a lot of requests to his Twitter account.

“PayPal Here”: SoftBank And PayPal Join Forces In Japan For Smartphone Payment Solution

PayPal President David Marcus, eBay CEO John Donahoe (PayPal is an eBay brand), and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son announced “PayPal Here” in Tokyo today, a payment solution for smartphones.

This is huge news for PayPal’s Japan unit, which has been operating in this country for years but hasn’t achieved the success it has seen in other countries so far (see Asiajin editor Akky Akimoto’s comment on Quora from last year for reasons why).

The plan is to establish a joint venture company, “PayPal Japan”, and introduce the “PayPal Here” service in the Japanese market (following the US, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia – visit TechCrunch for more information).

Each partner will hold a 50% stake in the new company and commits to invest 1 billion yen (US$12.5 million).

SoftBank explains:

The joint venture will bring together the strengths of both companies – PayPal’s global online and mobile payment solutions with 110 million active accounts in 190 markets and 25 currencies, along with the SOFTBANK Group’s local market knowledge, 29 million mobile subscribers*2 and vast distribution network including thousands of retail outlets and sales staff across Japan. By bringing together these global and local assets, the joint venture will provide the premier digital wallet for online, mobile and offline transactions to connect millions of Japanese consumers and merchants and expand the use of digital payment solutions, such as PayPal Here, in the Japanese market. (…)

PayPal and SOFTBANK expect PayPal Here to revolutionize the Japanese retail commerce market worth JPY134 trillion (USD1.7 trillion) in 2011and support the growth of 4.7 million small businesses, which account for 99% of all businesses and 70% of all employment in Japan.

What’s interesting is that the new partners aren’t losing time: the iPhone app for merchants and “PayPal Here” card reader are already available today at several “select” stores in Japan before SoftBank plans to roll out the reader “in the next several weeks” in their stores all over Japan.

The reader costs 1,200 yen, while each transaction will be taxed with 5% (there will be no fixed fees).

Three Of Japan’s Top Telcos Standardize Display Of Email Emoticons

Three of Japan’s four biggest mobile carriers, namely NTT Docomo, KDDI au, and eAccess, are about to make it easier for their combined subscriber base of roughly 90 million people to exchange emails with other.

The plan is to standardize the display of emoticons, or emoji in Japanese, across handsets offered by the three networks.

As of now, certain emoji aren’t correctly displayed when sent from the cell phone of a Docomo user to that of a KDDI user, for example. I am not a big emoji fan, but The Nikkei says that if a Docomo subscriber sends an emoji showing i.e. Taurus the Bull to somebody using a KDDI phone, a cow is displayed.

What may sound trivial is actually quite a big deal in Japan, where emoji have been in use since 1999 and emails have been the most popular way to communicate between mobile phone users since.

It’s especially young people who use emoji excessively. Around 2008, the lack of emoji support was blamed as one of the factors leading to the (initially) sluggish sales of the iPhone in Japan. In the same year, it was Google Japan’s local team that made it possible for Gmail users worldwide to use emoji in their messages.

KDDI an eAccess are also in the process of creating around 200 new emoji that fit NTT Docomo’s most popular ones. The standardization will kick off with new handsets released this summer.

SoftBank Mobile, Japan’s No. 3 carrier, isn’t part of the agreement: the company says it simply doesn’t display problematic emoji sent from handsets offered by other carriers on its handsets.