Friday, June 30, 2006
I had the honour of editing this week's Carnival of the Mobilists over at Wireless World Forum. As usual, there is a great mix of some of the best writing on mobile. What are you waiting for? Check it out!
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Nokia's plan to crack Japan - a 2 year-old European handset?
Today Nokia Japan held a press conference to detail its latest strategy to crack the Japanese market. Amazingly, the manufacturer seems to be set on continuing to push the 6630 onto the Japanese market which it originally released a year or so ago on Vodafone Japan.
Yes, that’s right - the cutting-edge 3G handset with only one camera (great for video calling!) released in 2004 in Europe! The clunky 6630 was criticised for its sluggish response and lack of memory over here and the problems worsen once support for Japanese language is bolted on. Nokia re-released the handset for DoCoMo earlier this year and (if that wasn’t enough) will soon releasing a sim-free version.
The other handsets which Nokia are hoping will take the Japanese market by storm this year are the N71, E60 and E61 which are already available in Europe, but which won’t be released until autumn at the earliest Japan. Does Nokia seriously expect to make any impact on the Japanese market with these handsets?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Linux phone joins W-Sim lineup
This week, Japanese operator Willcom has announced 2 new handsets based on its W-Sim (Willcom Sim) technology which allows users to pull out and plug in a core mobile module into different devices depending on their needs.
The first handset announced is a Linux-based handset named ‘Sandgate WP’.The handset comes with 192mb of memory, an Intel PXA270 416MHz processor and a 1.3 megapixel camera.
The second handset is the iPod-esque ‘nico’ – a handset with no internet browser or camera. The phone has e-mail functionality, however and is designed to appeal to parents of younger consumers who might not want their children accessing the internet from their mobile.
Monday, June 19, 2006
DoCoMo 3G subscribers surpass 50% of total user base
FOMA was launched in October 2001, but clunky handsets and spotty coverage put consumers off the new service. Rival operator au managed to steal a move on DoCoMo with its CDMA1X Win 3G service, and has been the most successful Japanese 3G operator currently with 22.5 million of its 23.3 subscribers on 3G. Vodafone Japan has the least 3G subscribers – less than a third of its 11.8 million subscribers.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Useful function for people who keep losing their phones
Temporarily misplacing your mobile is a problem I'm sure we all encounter from time to time but, luckily, you can easily locate it by ringing from another phone and following the sound of the ringtone. The problem is when your phone is sent to silent or vibrate, which mine often is. Then even ringing it is no use.
Kyocera have come up with a solution to this problem with their W42K handset soon to be released on the au network in Japan. The phone has a function which allows the owner to cancel silent mode from another preregistered number. When this function is used, the phone's ringtone volume is set to its highest so when called the phone is easy to locate. I think the next time I find myself searching the house from top to bottom for my missing handset, I'll wish my phone had this function too!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Vodafone attempts to recreate P2P sharing experience on mobile
Today Vodafone Japan launched a new service “Recomail” which allows Vodafone subscribers to recommend content such as ringtones, wallpapers and flash animations to their friends.
Using the new service, when a customer purchases some content they want to share, they can send the content file to their friend’s phone. Content supporting the service is protected by DRM and so the recipient must first pay for an access key in order to unlock and access the content. Recomail can be sent by MMS, Bluetooth and Infrared or the content can be physically exchanged via memory card.
The aim of the service is to create a DRM protected P2P-style mobile content distribution network between Vodafone customers. It’s a nice idea but I think there are a few downsides – a) sending a Recomail by MMS costs money, b) the service is only available for Vodafone’s 3G customers (only 20% of Vodafone subscribers), c) not all content supports Recomail d) what would be really great would be some kind of function to preview the content before buying the DRM key.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Carnival 31 now online
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Ringtones - not just for phones
Yesterday, Sammy announced details of three very different new products compatible with its muPass melody transmission service which enables consumers to transfer ringtones from their phone to various devices over infrared.
The first is a police speed trap radar – a product commonly installed in cars in Japan. Using muPass, drivers can change the sound played to alert them when speed traps are near. The second product is a mobile for babies (the sleep inducing device - not a phone!) which plays melodies that can be uploaded and overwritten by mobile ringtones. The last product revealed is a digital banner for commercial use. As well as changing the melody it plays to entice customers over muPass, users can change the message displayed on the banner by means of a special i-mode appli.
muPass has been around for a while, but products supporting it have so far been thin on the ground – the only other product I am aware of is a cooker made by Sanyo which plays ringtones to alert the consumer when cooking time is up. I wonder how many people are actually prepared to pay for this feature…
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
New colours for W-Zero3
The new colours are "Pearl White" and "Gun Metallic". I can't imagine a Western handset manufacturer getting away with a gun-inspired colour scheme...!
Image (c) Impress Watch Corporation.
Location-based Hello Kitty
For some reason or other, Hello Kitty is insanely popular in Japan and the cartoon cat adorns products from pencils to microwaves in department stores all over the country. Naturally, there are numerous mobile content sites dedicated to the feline phenomenon and today Imagineer revealed their latest Kitty site – Local Kitty.
Aside from the standard Hello Kitty we all know and love (!) there are over 850 themed Kittys in local costume representing the different towns and regions of Japan. The site delivers locally-themed Hello Kitty wallpapers, animations, photo frames and email stationary for 315 yen per month.
The site is also compatible with GPS, and Kitty fans travelling around Japan can select the location-based service to be provided with a selection of Kitty content appropriate to their current location. Limited-edition regional-themed products are popular in Japan and Local Kitty is sure to be a big hit.
(Left to right: Hokkaido Kitty, Shinjuku Kitty, Okinawa Kitty, Akihabara Kitty)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Mobile lessons in gibberish
‘Brain training’ games are extremely popular in Japan at the moment, sparked off by Dr Kawashima’s brain training game on the Nintendo DS. The game spawned a sequel and several tribute games including games to help learning English – a compulsory subject in Japanese schools.
The trend has started to transfer to mobile games and there have been a string of releases of ‘brain training’ games on all the major networks. The latest is “Doppuri the Brains” (“Brain Immersion”), an English training game from Game World for the Vodafone network.
The game is only 105 yen ($0.90) and its discount price appears to be a reflection of its quality. As well as teaching useful phrases such as “I go to school by rocket”, the application gives lessons in gibberish such as “I am a MIKE. It introduces a cheerful ENGLISH game!” and I have checked – it’s not a ‘spot the mistake’ quiz! Check the picture below: