Thursday, November 30, 2006
au – mobile searches have more than doubled since partnership with Google
At the mobidec 2006 event held today in Tokyo, Mr Takenouchi from au’s content and media division spoke about the current state of the content market in Japan and, interestingly, of how au’s partnership with Google has affected the way consumers use mobile search.
Since tying up with Google, au have moved the search box right to the top of their portal. Takenouchi showed a range of slides showing how the proportion of site accesses through search has increased since mobile Google started.
The killer slide was one showing a sharp increase in mobile search requests immediately after the launch. In less than a month, the number of daily mobile searches had increased to 2.5 times the pre-Google level.Impress watch corp.
Sega promote gangster video game with mobile colouring-in
Sega have teamed up with Japanese music, game and video retailer Tsutaya to promote the launch of their hard-hitting, gangster-themed PS2 game Ryu ga Gotoku 2 (Yakuza 2) with… a virtual mobile colouring book.
There are two versions of the colouring book – one for Tsutaya’s PC site and the other for its mobile site both of which launch today. The colouring books will be updated with new pictures to colour on the game’s launch date (7th December).
Here’s the link to the PC version for anyone who wants to try it out.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Mobile music market still growing in Japan, mostly through fulltrack downloads
The Record Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) has released its quarterly figures for music sales in Japan, including statistics on mobile music sales by members.
The figures show that the mobile music market is continuing to grow, with sales of 12.4 billion yen (136% sales from the same quarter last year) on 86 million individual downloads.
Breaking the figures down further, it becomes clear that most of the growth has been in fulltrack downloads, with sales of 4.7 billion yen (201% of sales in the same quarter last year).
The growth in fulltrack downloads isn’t surprising as operators (in particular au) have been actively pushing their new fulltrack download services and there have been a slew of new music phones leaving the handset factories.
Top mobile communities in Japan
Mobile SNS on the radar at the moment:
1. Mobagetown (2 million, launched February 06)
2. Gocco (370, 000, launched March 06)
3. EZGree (100,000, launched November 06)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
How are mobile-only communities different to their PC counterparts?
Recently I’ve been blogging about how mobile communities are becoming big in Japan, and today there’s an interesting article about mobile communiti... posted on Japanese mobile news site “+D Mobile”. The article is written by a 28 year old female who has grown up with the internet and so “has never understood the feeling that older generations have of not getting the net”. The writer tries out “Mobagetown” – the mobile game community that is incredibly popular with Japanese teens and has recently gained its 2 millionth member and discovered that through using the mobile community it was suddenly her who didn’t get it and the frustrations of the older generation towards the web “became painfully clear”.
The first thing the writer (herself an addict of PC-based online communities) noticed was that as soon as she signed up, she was bombarded by email, all from members of the opposite sex, requesting her virtual friendship. The other thing she noticed is that Mobagetown has its own grammar – and in particular members used emoticons and smilies. Although the writer is net-savvy, even she found it difficult to understand Mobagetown members’ emails.
One of the differences between Mobagetown and popular PC-based Japanese community sites such as Mixi is that it is an open community (Mixi operates a strict invitation-only system – and the focus of the site is building online communities for friends who already know eachother in the real world). Mobagetown forbids members to make requests to meet up in real life so all friends made are truly virtual. The article’s writer notes that this has an interesting effect on the type of interaction that takes place between members.
Mobagetown members are apparently keen to establish structured virtual relationships. There are “Mobaboyfriends”, “Mobagirlfriends”, “Mobafamilies” and “Mobaschools”. There is also much more virtual roleplay on the mobile community. Among the chatrooms there are virtual restaurants where members pretend to order and serve food, classrooms where virtual school is held and hostbars where male hosts listen to female “clients’” troubles.
Another big feature of the mobile community is a Q&A board similar to Yahoo! Answers. The questions asked range from help with school home work (How do you say x in English?) to questions on love and relationships (What xmas present should I buy for my girlfriend? / I’ve fallen in love with my Mobaboyfriend, what should I do?).
The conclusion of the article is that there are big differences between the “culture” of PC-based community sites and that of mobile communities. The author writes that, once you get used to the small screen and slower navigation, Mobagetown feels very much like a virtual school common room where members can be themselves and play games together. A new generation of community that can only exist on the mobile phone is beginning to take off in Japan.
(Left to right: homework maths questions answered on a Q&A board, roleplaying in a Mobahostbar, one of the games the Mobagetown community is built around - images (c) itmedia)
Monday, November 27, 2006
Mobile SNS site gains 100,000 members in 1 week
Gree is the third most popular PC-based social networking site in Japan after Mixi and Frepal and has around 400,000 registered members. Gree teamed up with Japanese operator au to launch EZ Gree – a mobile version of the service.
The service launched on 16th November and today au announced that EZ Gree had gained 100,000 members (including PC members accessing their accounts from their mobile) on the 23rd November – just a week after launch.
Mobile communities are definitely becoming a big thing in Japan – I posted a couple of weeks back about how the mobile gaming community Mobagetown has managed to sign up 2 million members in 9 months. au has EZ Gree, Softbank has Yahoo! Days – it will be interesting to see what DoCoMo has planned for this area.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Also in this week's edition is my colleague, Savka Andic being interviewed my Xellular Identity's Xen Mendelsohn on mobile marketing.
This week's Carnival is taking place at the end of this link.
Controversy over NeoMedia's code scanning patent
I’m no patent expert, but I know how complex they are (I once had to translate a Japanese toothbrush patent – no it’s not a handle, it’s a plastic coated metal alloy holding part). From what I can gather, the patent doesn’t threaten codes such as QR codes (for which the patent is held, but not exercised by Toyota subsidiary Denso) and FP codes (invented by Fujitsu) as they simply decode a url rather than looking it up against some database. However, other systems such as Shotcodes and Scanbuy do use databases so this patent could potentially cause problems there.
As barcodescodes and databases have been used in retail for years, the patent could potentially cover these too and so various websites have been appealing for prior art to use to nullify the patent.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Ancient temple embraces FP codes
Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto is one of Japan’s most famous temples and a must-see sightseeing spot for anyone visiting the country. The temple has become a cultural symbol - the Japanese equivalent phrase for ‘take the plunge’ is ‘jump off Kiyomizu’s veranda’ in reference to an old adage that said if you survived the fall, your wish would be granted. Kiyomizu was founded in 798 – but that hasn’t stopped them from taking the plunge into the 21st century and embracing FP codes which I talked about in this post.
When visiting a Japanese temple, it’s customary to have your fortune read – usually by picking a fortune scroll from a bunch of scrolls carrying various prophecies from utter disaster to happy times. A bit like a fortune cookie. From tomorrow, Kiyomizu is launching a mobile-read fortune scroll. Having a big ugly QR code on the fortune scroll would kind of spoil the design – so the temple has decided to opt to use FP codes for their mobile fortunetelling solution. The visitor selects a scroll with a fortune reading contained in a hidden FP code embedded in a picture and uses their mobile to display the hidden message contained.
When I visted Kiyomizu temple a couple of years back and had my fortune read, the fortune-teller took one look at it, put it quickly back and told me to pick another. Presumably FP technology will put a stop to such cheating monks.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Navitime launches interesting GPS application
Today Navitime launched an interesting little GPS mobile application with three different functions using GPS to make life easier when out and about.
The first function is ‘safety alert’ and it sends a notification message to a predefined email address when the handset owner enters or leaves a predefined location. Useful, perhaps for child tracking or determining when family members leave the house and return home.
Next is ‘proximity navi’ which makes the handset vibrate and display an alert when the owner gets near to one or more predefined locations. I can’t think of too many uses for this one off the top of my head – but could be used to remind you of potholes in the road or particularly bad restaurants!
The third function is ‘last train from anywhere’ which sounds very handy when out on the town in an unfamiliar place. The service keeps track of your location and matches it with train times of the nearest station. When last train time draws near, the service will alert you and provide GPS directions to the station.
The application is part of the service Navitime provides to paid subscribers to its mobile site. Subscription is charged at 210 yen for standard and 315 yen for premium membership.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
DoCoMo's credit card service hits the million subscriber mark
Today DoCoMo announced that its DCMX credit card service has gained its millionth subscriber.
DCMX is available both in mobile RFID and more traditional plastic card varieties (although the plastic card contains an RFID chip), but the press release didn’t specify how the million subscribers break up.
DoCoMo launched DCMX at the end of April this year, so the company has managed to sign up the million subscribers in just 6 and a half months. The romance between Japanese operators and financial institution looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Mobile game community reaches 2 million members
Yesterday, Japanese mobile site Mobagetown signed up is 2 millionth member. The name Mobagetown is a fusion of “Mobile Game Town” and the site is a mobile-only community game site, similar to Korea’s PC based Hangame site which is the largest online game community in the world, with 25 million subscribers in Korea and 17 million in Japan. Like Hangame, the site is a blend of casual games and social networking –multiplayer and singleplayer games coupled with chat, blogs and avatars.
Mobagetown launched in February this year and so has managed to grow to 2 million members in just 9 months. To put that in perspective, it took Mixi (the most popular PC based SNS in Japan) 1 year, 9 months and 3 weeks to reach 2 million members!
Mobagetown plans to increase its functionality and introduce music, video and search features to the site in the coming months. Membership to Mobagetown is free.
mobileYouth interviews over at Xellular Identity
Head over to Xellular Identity to check out the full interviews.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Global PHS subscribers top 100 million
Today the PHS MoU Group announced that the global number of PHS subscribers has exceeded 100 million.
PHS (Personal Handy-phone System) is a 2G standard developed by NTT DoCoMo in 1989, but its uptake is mostly limited to a few countries in Asia.
In Japan, PHS subscriber numbers were in rapid decline, but PHS operator Willcom managed to reverse this trend in 2005 with flat-rate data and voice packages and Japan's first Windows Mobile smartfone which proved popular with business users.
Currently, Chinese PHS subscribers make up 90% of the global total and telecoms companies use the standard to set up low-cost wireless local loop systems.
PHS subscribers per country:
Japan Railways announce plans for mobile loyalty point scheme
Yesterday, Japan Railways East (JR East) announced that they are planning to launch a mobile based loyalty point scheme next June to compliment their mobile RFID electronic ticketing and e-cash system, Suica.
JR East has been quick to embrace the opportunities offered by the increasing penetration of IC-chip embedded mobile phones in Japan. First, they made their existing card-based Suica contactless ticketing system compatible with mobiles. Next, the company extended the system to support small retail payments and offered solutions to stores wanting to use Suica as a payment option. Recently, stations in Tokyo have been trialling RFID posters, using IC in mobile marketing. Now with today’s announcement, JR East is looking to take advantage of the potential of IC mobiles as a customer retention and CRM tool.
The new system comes in two incarnations – retailers can either sign up to the “Suica Points” scheme where customers have one points balance which increases every time they make a purchase at a participating store or buy JR East railway tickets. Alternatively, retailers can establish their own independent loyalty point scheme for their customers who pay using Suica e-cash.
A lot of the excitement surrounding mobile RFID has so far been based on its function as a payment method – but its role as a loyalty card has equally exciting possibilities. Imagine the opportunities it could offer retailers with well established loyalty schemes such as Tesco and Boots…
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Asahi newspaper uses mobile technology in its Tokyo Marathon coverage
Today Asahi newspaper announced that it will be using mobile technology in its coverage of this year’s Tokyo Marathon. The company will use IC chips and GPS enabled phones to provide location information of participants for its special mobile site.
Each runner will have an IC chip embedded in their vest and escort vehicles will carry GPS enabled mobile phones. The escort vehicles will use the phones to transmit the runners’ locations back to a server and the results will be displayed as a map on the Asahi mobile sports site.
The marathon will be held on the 19th of September and access to the Asahi mobile site is charged at a monthly rate of 105 yen.Original article
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Habbo Hotel mobileYouth networking event - impressions
Last Friday, the mobileYouth team held our first ever virtual networking event at the popular youth hangout, Habbo Hotel. We decided to try the event as a bit of an experiment. As we highlight in the mobileYouth report, some pioneering brands are already using internet communities such as Habbo to connect with their youth consumers. We thought we’d try and use Habbo to hold a meeting of people interested in mobile and youth trends.
As with any ‘real’ networking event, there were a few technical hitches. We had emails from some people who were unable to log in to Habbo and Alan Patrick blogged about his struggles with the Habbo registration system. Later we were victim to some unwanted party crashers – Habbo hackers who would enter the room and randomly kick out our guests.
Despite the problems, we were lucky to have an interesting group of people turn up and stimulate some lively virtual discussions. Oscar from NVIDIA, Helen from BeepMarketing, Alex from SendMyTxt, Tomi from Communities Dominate Brands, Antony from Future Platforms, Werner from Jataayu and a couple of guys from the AOL UK communities team were a few of the new and familiar faces I ran into.
As for the networking experience, it was difficult to follow conversations when lots of people were typing and Habbo didn’t keep a conversation history to refer back to. Habbo wasn’t perfect, but it definitely offered something a bit extra to an email discussion or a Skype chat.
To see some pictures from the event, click here.
Willcom announce anti-bacterial handset
Today Japanese PHS operator Willcom announced a new version of the nico. handset which has been a permanent feature of the operator’s top 3 bestselling handsets since its launch in July this year. The new version is identical to the existing handset except that it has a special anti-bacterial coating.
PHS handsets give off less electromagnetic interference when compared to their CDMA and GSM cousins and so Willcom are hoping that this, coupled with the antibacterial coating, will give their handsets appeal to medical workers.
The antibacterial nico. is slated to go on sale in late November.
Art gallery uses mobile TV, Nintendo DS as visitor guides
On Monday, The Japanese National Museum of Western Art announced a trial of a new guide service using OneSeg-enabled mobile phones and Wi-Fi enabled Nintendo DS consoles.
The DS service is live in the Manet and Renoir gallery and the Monet gallery. When visitors enter the rooms, their DS connects to wireless access points which give them access to information on artists and their works and historical background information. The service also provides visitors with relevant video content from NHK art programmes.
To provide the OneSeg mobile TV service, the gallery had to obtain a broadcasting license from the Japanese government to use broadcasting frequencies with a limited output and so the service can only be picked up within the museum building. Visitors with OneSeg mobile phones pick up a welcome message from the head curator as they enter the gallery and a video tour as they progress to the first floor.
The trial will from the 3rd to the 19th November and the gallery is offering a free poster to visitors who take part in the trial and complete a survey of their impressions of the service.
Images (c) Impress Watch Corporation