Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Use your mobile to lose weight with "Beauty Walker"

It’s already the end of January and by now many New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more will have fallen by the wayside. Don’t fear, mobile help is at hand! Yesterday, Bandai Networks released a new GPS-enabled diet support application “Beauty Walker”.

“Beauty Walker” is an application which uses GPS to measure how far you’ve walked and displays how many calories you’ve burned. The application allows you to set goals of food that you want to eat and it will alert you when you’ve burned enough calories to eat it.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


Softbank adds a splash of colour with its spring collection

It’s the time of year when Japanese operators reveal their all-important spring handset collections and last week, DoCoMo and au announced 10 new models each. Today, Softbank announced their new collection and it’s their most colourful yet - literally.

The very bling Swarovski crystal-studded 707SC is aiming to be the jewel in the crown of Softbank’s new collection (if you’ll excuse the pun).

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Unlike our phone stores which are lined with silver handsets, colour variations are very important for handsets in Japan. The new Softbank 812SH takes the colour variation game to a whole new spectrum (sorry, couldn’t resist). Sharp has teamed up with Pantone to release the handset in no less than 20 colour variations.

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Slightly less colourful is the X01NK (aka Nokia E61), which is sadly only available in jewel-free silver.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Use your mobile to pay for your purchases on your PS3

Today Edy, an e-cash service available on walletphones, announced that the latest upgrade to the PlayStation 3’s firmware will allow you to pay for your PS3 online shopping with your mobile phone.

To use your mobile to buy things from your PS3, you’ll need a PaSoRi FeliCa reader-writer, which will also work on a PC. When you get to the checkout, all you need to do is touch your mobile on the PaSoRi reader to charge your Edy account and you’re good to go.

A quick look on shows that PaSoRi readers are currently selling for around 3000 yen ($25). Of course, if you don’t have one already, you’ll have to use a standard credit card to buy it from your PS3 for now ;)



Psycho-analyse your mobile messages

Have you ever received a message on your phone from someone special but weren’t sure whether the text represented their true feelings? It’s this kind of problem that Animo is trying to solve with its new i-mode service “Email Truth Checker” which is similar to the Feel*Mail handset function I posted on yesterday.

To use the service, you choose your gender and the relationship between you and the person whose message you want to analyse (you can chose from partner, crush, superior, family etc.). After you’ve uploaded the message in question, the system analyses the language used and rates the authenticity of the feelings expressed. The service also provides a detailed psycho-analysis of the writer and gives you tips on how to respond.

“Email Truth Checker” charges a monthly subscription of 105 yen (just under $1), which is cheaper than hiring a psychologist to read your emails…


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Handset that detects the mood of your messages

While at first glance, the P703i by Panasonic isn’t the most head-turning handset in DoCoMo’s recently announced spring lineup (that prize would probably go to the touchscreen clamshell D800iDS, the waterproof F703i which you can allegedly use in the shower or the SO703i which has swappable fragranced fascias), on closer inspection, the handset has a rather novel feature – “Feel*Mail”.

“Feel*Mail” is a new function along the same lines as “Feel*Talk” which appeared in a Panasonic handset I wrote about last summer. When the handset receives a message, “Feel*Mail” analyses its text and displays one of 45 different animations depending on the emotion detected in the message.

In the unlikely event this function ever comes to the UK, I wonder how well the it would cope with txt spk?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


Seminar on cameraphone codes in London next Thursday

I’m running a seminar on cameraphone codes next Thursday afternoon at City University, Central London. The seminar will cover the basics of 2D barcodes, the technological and financial considerations and the pros and cons of the competing systems. We’ll also look at alternative mobile hyperlink systems such as image recognition, audio and RFID. There’ll be some videos, demos and case studies and hopefully it should be an interesting afternoon.

Find out more by downloading this brochure. The price for one place is £145, but if you call and mention you’re a reader of this blog I’ve negotiated a very special price (over 50% discount!).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Mistubishi launches developer contest for new touchscreen phone

Yesterday I posted about the D800iDS – a handset from Mitsubishi with an innovative touchscreen clamshell design. With a bit of imagination, like Nintendo with their DS and Wii, Mitsubishi could produce some really great applications and games for the handset.

Well, Mitsubishi is looking to tap into the imaginations of the Japanese public to give them a hand. Today the handset manufacturer announced a competition for developers to design applications for the device with prizes of LCD TVs and DVD recorders on offer. Mitsubishi will provide 30 selected entrants with a software simulator of the D800iDS until its launch and a loan handset once it goes on sale in February.

Homebrew mobile games and applications are quite common in Japan. The operators make developing tools and guides freely available and there are aggregators such as “Appli Get” which host homebrew games and offer revenue shares for homebrew developers. It will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the outcome of the competition.


X-Series impressions

Having used 3’s X-Series for a few days now, I have had 3 waves of nostalgia:

  1. On the train home one evening I passed time browsing 3’s portal. Browsing the operator portal is something I haven’t done since living in Japan. Three’s portal’s quite nice :)
  2. I ordered something from Amazon the other day and within a few seconds my phone picked up the autoconfirm email that Amazon sent my webmail address. Again, something that brought back memories of being in Japan. I’m actually really impressed with 3’s webmail service – really easy to setup and works a treat :)
  3. After a hiatus from using a Nokia S60 handset, I have been reminded about how buggy they can be :(


Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Mitsubishi announces touchscreen clamshell for DoCoMo

Today, DoCoMo and au each revealed 10 new handsets to go on sale later this year. They’re an interesting bunch as usual and designer handsets are once more a prominent trend, including the former concept-phone “Media Skin” which I mentioned only yesterday.

The most radical phone from the new DoCoMo handsets is the D800iDS from Mitsubishi (codenamed “Direct & Smooth”). When closed, the handset looks like an ordinary clamshell, but open it up to reveal that, instead of a keypad, the phone sports a touchscreen sub-display.

The phone is obviously inspired by the success of the Nintendo DS in Japan (even the model number appears to be a homage) and it will be interesting to see what applications and games developers create to make use of the touchscreen. The D800iDS is slated for launch mid-February.

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Monday, January 15, 2007


Handsets become art

Sometimes it seems that some of the handsets released in the Japanese market would be more at home displayed in an art gallery - and that’s exactly what’s going to happen. KDDI announced today that the Museum of Modern Art in New York is going to display four handsets from au’s Design Project collection of designer mobiles.

The first handset is the “Infobar” which went on sale in 2003 and was au’s first designer handset.

London designer Marc Newson’s “Talby” will also go on display.

Last year’s “Neon” with customizable LED display is the third model chosen.

The lineup is completed with the concept handset “Media Skin” which au revealed in 2005, but was never commercialised. The designers of the simple, smooth handset say it is meant to represent a “second skin”.

It’s a great chance for anyone in New York to check out some really stunning handsets from Japan.


Friday, January 12, 2007


Awareness campaign for earthquake info system

I posted yesterday about how the Japanese are increasingly using mobiles as part of their natural disaster planning. Today the Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA) announced a poster campaign which positions the mobile as important as the emergency bag of food, money, torches etc. that authorities encourage people to keep in their homes in case of emergency.

When earthquakes occur in Japan, the mobile networks frequently go down due to a surge in calls and emails from worried friends and family. To combat this, all 4 major networks have worked together to develop a mobile internet natural disaster information system which puts minimum stress on the network. People in affected areas log onto the system to set their status to “ok” and this status is visible to friends and relatives who log on to search for loved ones.

The system only went live late last year and so far has yet to be tested in an actual disaster. Of course, we can only hope that it won’t be needed, but if a major earthquake should strike, the system will no doubt be a huge help in the relief effort. The posters will be displayed in government institutions and schools all over Japan from this month.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


NHK uses mobile TV for improved earthquake and tsunami alerts

Earthquakes are common in Japan and when a medium or strong earthquake occurs, Japanese TV channels will superimpose a newsflash of a couple of lines giving information on the strength of the earthquake and affected areas without interrupting the programming (of course, in the case of very strong earthquakes they will cut to a news report).

Today Japan’s public broadcaster NHK announced that it was launching a new service to display additional information on earthquakes stronger that 3 on the Japanese scale on digital broadcast TV including mobile TV. When an earthquake occurs, the interactive button will become an ‘earthquake info button’. Pressing the button will bring up detailed information on the earthquake and alerts of possible tsunami.

NHK says that the service (which launches next Wednesday) is in response to viewers’ complaints that they sometimes missed the standard text newsflashes. It’s really interesting to see how the Japanese are using technology (and particularly the mobile – the earthquake emergency system that the operators have set up there makes the mobile an essential safety device) to improve their response to natural disasters.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


au announces new handsets for young and old

The spotlight may be on Apple’s iPhone, but over in Japan today au announced three new handsets – two catering for the very young and one for the not-so-young mobile owner.

First is an update to Sanyo’s Junior Keitai– a fully functional phone aimed at kids 7+. This new model features waterproofing and a battery that can only be removed using a special tool.

Also by Sanyo is the “Sweets Cute” – the successor of the “Sweets” and “Sweets Pure” handsets aimed at teenage girls. The features are similar but, according to the designers, the theme this time is “a biscuit soaked in cream”. Hmmm.

Toshiba completes the lineup with a handset aimed at the seniors market. The A5523T is a 2G handset with big keys, big text, big icons and big volume for calls.

Au used the announcement to demo improvements to their location tracking services and a new capping service to place a limit on a contract’s monthly bill. With the new handsets and services, au is aiming to position itself as an emergency hotline between parents and kids (and grandparents).


Mobile poetry for hayfever sufferers

Announced today, Shering-Plough's “Hayfever on mobile - a haiku a morning” has got to be the most ‘unique’ mobile service of 2007 so far. As you may have guessed from the title, the service sends you an email haiku about hayfever every morning.

The haiku are a selection of entries for the 2nd (!) annual hayfever haiku competition and the service promises “light hearted, strong and bold haiku about hayfever which can sometimes be so frustrating… great comfort for those who face the condition”.

Schering-Plough don’t just soothe the hayfever-suffering masses through poetry. There is also a section of free wallpaper downloads of the cartoon animals Clary and Tin (can anyone say Claritin®, the popular anti-allergy drug from Schering-Plough?).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Nokia announces NFC handset for Q107

After months of trials and speculation, Nokia announced that they will be launching the world’s first NFC-enabled mobile handset in the first quarter of 2007 – the 6131 NFC at the CES.

NFC is a contactless smartchip technology developed by Philips and Sony similar to Sony’s Felica technology used in walletphones in Japan and the Mifare system widely used in transport smartcards such as London’s Oystercard.

It’s really exciting that the world’s biggest handset manufacturer is supporting NFC. There are so many exciting possibilities when this goes mainstream.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Best Japanese handset of 2006

Japanese news site Keitai Watch have published their list of top mobile handsets of 2006 as voted by their readers. Whereas the site’s readers aren’t a good representation of the Japanese general public (they’re definitely of the more technically-minded variety), I thought it was worth posting all the same.

This year, two phones share the coveted number one spot with 536 votes each. The first is Sharp’s 905SH which was the phone which raised the bar for OneSeg digital TV handsets with its superb Aquos-branded QVGA display. The second is the Casio W41CA, another fully-functional high end wallet phone featuring the Lismo music service.

Last year’s winner was the Sharp W-Zero 3, Japan’s first Windows Mobile powered pocket pc phone and it’s no surprise that the handset’s successor, the W-Zero 3 es took first place in the newly-created smartphone category.

(L to R 905SH, W41CA, W-Zero 3 es)

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Biggest Japanese mobile news from 2006

Because of the New Year holiday period in Japan, there’s not much new news to report on at the moment. However, the Japanese mobile news sites have plenty of ‘best of 2006’ features.

The ‘Keitai Watch’ news site counts down the best news stories of 2006 as voted by the website readers. Gaining 1,169 out of 6,275 total votes, the number one accolade goes to the start of mobile number portability (MNP) in Japan.

While there wasn’t a huge exodus of subscribers changing operators when MNP went live in November, its introduction has certainly shaped the year. In 2006 all operators stepped up a gear launching a record number of sparkly new handsets, innovative services and a bewildering array of special price plans.

Other notable entries were Vodafone’s acquisition by Softbank (#2), the start of OneSeg digital mobile TV (#4) and the launch of handsets with VGA screens, HDDs and 1 gb onboard memory (#7).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Are mobile New Year's greetings going out of fashion in Japan?

I was interested by what Bena Roberts posted over at GoMoNews about the extra pressure on mobile networks over the Xmas and New Year period from festive calls and texts.

Like O2UK, the Japanese operators have been sending out warnings that their networks may become temporarily unavailable under a deluge of ‘Happy New Year’ texts and calls. A couple of interesting things stick out from the press releases.

Firstly, DoCoMo announced that it has managed to migrate enough of its subscribers over to 3G that it didn’t anticipate any need to put restrictions on its 2G service over the new year period.

Secondly, it seems that mobile festive greetings are in a declining trend in Japan. DoCoMo reported that on New Year’s Eve 2004 there was 11 times the normal level of voice and email traffic. In 2005 it was 4.4 times 6 times respectively. For this New Year DoCoMo predicted only 3 times the calls and 4 times the emails.

Despite the warnings, a Nepro survey showed that 40% of respondents still intended to send a New Year’s greeting, with only 18% saying that they would choose to avoid the peak 12-1 hour to send then.

It will be interesting to see how the New Year mobile traffic actually turned out when the Japanese news/press releases start up again after the New Year break.

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