Posts Tagged ‘cell phones’

Summer cell phones: which will make the biggest splash?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Will KDDI's IS01 Android smartphone be able to outperform the iPhone this summer?

Will KDDI’s IS01 Android smartphone be able to outperform the iPhone this summer?

SoftBank, DoCoMo and KDDI are all hoping that their new lineup of cell phone models are going to make a big splash on the market when they’re released this summer. On one count at least, that will be true for almost all models, as waterproof was the dominant feature in this season’s phones.

But being able to cut it poolside wasn’t the biggest issue. What had keitai-watchers buzzing was whether DoCoMo and KDDI would to outshine SoftBank in the smartphone arena. SoftBank currently sell the iPhone, which has quickly become the nation’s favorite smartphone. Given the exclusivity of Softbank’s agreement with Apple, Docomo and KDDI naturally had to come up with rival devices to knock the sheen of Apple’s best selling gadget. To that end, last week both carriers announced new phones that will run on the Android OS. Among them were more interface options. For example, KDDI’s  IS01 smartphone offers both a qwerty keyboard and a touch display; same goes for Docomo’s Sharp LYNX SH-10B.

But SoftBank still seems to continue to be one step ahead, in terms of innovation. Many of the new cell phones in the SoftBank stable are Twitter-friendly, straight out of the box, thanks to either an app or widget. After the U.S., Japan has the highest number of Tweet traffic in the world, with the Japanese making up 15 percent of the globe’s Tweets, so it’s easy to see how this function might be popular.

SoftBank also showed itself to be ahead of the curve by introducing a pet monitoring device called Mimamori which can be controlled by the user’s cell phone. This very groovy looking digital camera is equipped with a motion sensor that allows it to track a pet’s movements while in the home and relay shots of that pet to the user’s mobile. The camera can also be remotely controlled in real time by users who want to check up on their pets while they are out of the house.

While Softbank pulled ahead with novelties such as these, DoCoMo really came up trumps in the style stakes by offering brand-designed phones for their Style Series, including models designed by popular brands Francfranc and Marimekko. Expect to see these stylish numbers dangling from the handbags of Shibuya and Ginza this summer.

As we already mentioned, the majority of phones were waterproofed this season. Will solar charging be the next big thing in the fall collections?  If so, both KDDI and SoftBank are already out of the gate. SoftBank’s Solar Hybrid 936SH developed by Sharp offers two hours of standby display or one minute call time for a 10-minute charge. KDDI also offers a Sharp model with their Solar Phone SH007 and also claims that a 10-minute solar charge is enough for a one-minute phone call.

As temperatures soar and these new phones hit the streets, the battle to knock the iPhone off its top spot is set to intensify.

Women enjoy romances with their cell phones

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Which guy would you chose to date?

Women get to choose from a stable of eight handsome otomen

Yesterday saw the launch of a new dating simulation game for cell phones called “Kimi to Wonder Kiss.”  TV Tokyo Broadband, who developed the game in conjunction with Rejet, is hoping to cash in on the current boom for cell-phone dating games aimed at the female market.

While console dating sims for men eclipse those aimed at women in sales, it seems like the opposite is true for the relatively new market of cell-phone ren’ai (dating) games. CNET reports that last year ren’ai games made up one in seven of the games available on the iMode menu and out of those 80 percent were aimed at women.

The trend started in December 2006 when “Koibito wa No 1 Host” (My Boyfriend Is the No. 1 Host) was launched on the market. The story allowed girls to chose their favorite young man from a host club (a bar where women pay to spend time with handsome young men) and groom him to become the No. 1 host in the joint. The key to the success of this title was that it closely resembled a romantic novel in structure and also dispensed with complicated game playing rules, a style which appealed to its female audience.

As the market showed steady growth, ren’ai cell-phone games introduced new features. In February 2008 “The Hills Lovers” was released, introducing a system where you could get extra play time and get a sneak peek at game endings in exchange for purchasing more points. In March 2008 “Boku wa Kimi to Koi ni Ochiru” (I’m Falling in Love With You) attracted manga fans by using voice actors and illustrations from popular manga artists.

As the number of games on the market has proliferated, the games themselves have begun to fall into different genres, which include historical dramas, high school love stories or office romances.

“Kimi to Wonder Kiss” seems to be pretty standard. Set in a theme park called Dreams Come True, the player chooses her mate from a stable of eight high school ikemen (cool guys) and then pursues the love story to its happy ending. At ¥315 for a month’s play on NTT Docomo, the game is the ultimate cheap date.

Turning the Japanese household on its head

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Acccording to a poll carried out by the Institute for Advertising Research Softbank’s Shirato Family series of commercials have been voted most popular with Japanese audiences for the third year running. To decide the nation’s favorite ad, the institute interviewed 3,000 respondents, ages 6 to 89. The campaigns in second and third place also came from cell-phone companies: KDDI and NTT DoCoMo, respectively. Fourth place went to Lotte for their extremely successful Fit’s viral-video dance campaign, which featured a catchy song-and-dance routine and challenged viewers to perform the dance themselves and upload it to YouTube.

Much of the success of the Shirato campaign has been attributed to the charms of pop idol/actress Aya Ueto (who plays the family’s younger sister character), but what really makes the commercials stand out is that, despite its depiction of a “typical” Japanese family, the women rule the roost, otousan (father) just happens to be a white dog and onisan (elder brother) is played by African-American actor Dante Carver.

Continue reading about Softbank's Shirato Family commercials →

Manga publishers go back to the drawing board

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Manga are still popular, but are losing out to cell phones and the internet

Free manga browsing at a convenience store

In a recent interview with Monocle Magazine, Japanamerica author and pop culture stalwart Roland Kelts was asked about Meiji University’s plans for a manga library. “When you make a Rock and Roll museum, it means that Rock and Roll is dead,” he said. “And when you build a manga museum, to some extent it means that there is an end in sight.”

Perhaps in its present form, yes. Kelts doesn’t believe that manga are going away, but domestic sales are down, with print media competing with – and frequently losing to – digital platforms on cell phones and the Internet. Don’t worry, he explains, manga are just in the process of adapting to the new landscape. Downloadable manga for your cell phone are but one example.

Continue reading about evolving forms of manga →

DoCoMo brings us little closer to our cell phones

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Shall I connect to the internet master?

Shall I connect to the Internet, master?

NTT DoCoMo, evidently feeling that customers are just not attached enough to their mobile phones, has been developing a new range of Machi-Chara (virtual characters) that can help customers manage their cell-phone correspondence. “Even your older brother will  get angry with you if you ignore messages,” explained the booth babe at the recent CEATEC IT and electronics exhibition in Makuhari Messe.

These cute animated characters have been around for awhile, typically roaming around the users’ screen and reacting to incoming calls and messages, or even helping you with your appointments diary. What’s different about the new, yet-to-be-released range is that they are exploiting otaku moe (character love) fetishes to the max and messages from them are designed to have a more personal touch. For example, the maid in her frilly white apron might ask you, “May I connect to the Web site, master?”

There are three characters in total: older brother, younger sister and maid. The first is aimed at women and the latter two at men, presumably the logic being that women enjoy being bossed around by an angry older brother while men prefer to assume a dominant role with their personal online slave. We expect this application is going to be extremely popular amongst male anime fans.

New products coming out out of the woodwork

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DoCoMo unveiled a very nice pair of wood-encased mobile phones a few days ago. The prototypes developed by Sharp and Olympus are made from cypress trees that have been selectively cut from ecologically sustainable forests. The product, sweetly named “Touch Wood,” is part of the more trees campaign that was started by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto back in 2007. The campaign is aimed at maintaining and replanting forest in Japan.

With the rise of the Mori Girl (forest girl) trend, not to mention increased public concern for the environment, we can see more natural products coming out of the woodwork. Here’s a few that are already available:

  • More trees is also behind a nice wooden 1 GB USB stick. It might be saving the environment but at ¥6,825 you won’t be saving your pennies.
  • Nippon Style Project make a handmade wooden keyboard that hopefully doesn’t warp if you spill your coffee over it.
  • While digital wooden clocks have been around for a few years, we dig this one is from designer Koji Iwasaki.
  • Lastly and possibly the most obvious candidate for a wood finish is the digital photo frame.

While it’d be nice if there were more products out there that cut down on plastic in favor of more sustainable materials, you still have to bear in mind that the core workings of all these products are going to end up in landfill sites. But for now, we’re quite taken with the lovely wooden sheen of DoCoMo’s phones and are looking forward to seeing them on display Oct. 6-10 at the CEATEC JAPAN 2009 at Makuhari Messe.

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