There is no reason for i-mode provider NTT Docomo to give up on its highly profitable mobile Internet service for feature phones as long as it makes money, but Japan’s biggest mobile carrier is starting to change things. According to Japanese business daily The Nikkei, Docomo is moving to combine its i-mode and smartphone businesses as early as next month.
The paper isn’t giving away too many details, but says that, for example, Docomo plans to offer content (i.e. apps) available on i-mode only to smartphone users in the future. The plan is to make feature phone-only services like i-channel or i-concierge available for that target group.
Another example: In customer service, NTT Docomo had a workforce of 2,500 people handling calls from feature phone users so far. But apparently, the company wants to move up to 500 of these employees to the 250 people who have been handling inquiries from smartphone users so far.
Docomo merging its i-mode and smartphone businesses isn’t a surprise: the company expects to ship six million smartphones in the next fiscal year, more than double the amount it aims at selling this fiscal (2.5 million).
The carrier plans to release 40-50 models in the year starting April – about 50% of the new models will likely be smartphones.
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