Posts Tagged ‘keitai’

April Fool’s in Japan — the joke’s on you

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April Fool’s Day doesn’t have very deep roots in Japanese culture, but obviously branding creatives and open-minded corporations are seeing the potential benefits of making potential customers laugh. Rather than pulling a fast one, these pranks put their silliness up-front and center.

Ika

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Never runs out of batteries, glows in the dark and easy to handle.

Introducing the iKA Organic Ebook from publisher Kodansha. Drawing its power from the squid’s natural bioenergy, there’s no need to recharge the batteries. The iKA’s long tentacles serve as a handy neck-strap, it glows in the dark and has endless supply of ink. The iKA is provided via a subscription service, which delivers a fresh squid each week (note:  size and weight may vary). You get the added bonus of being able to cook and eat the old one (special squid dish recipe available to early buyers!). How’s that for eco-friendly technology?

Domino's can pizza

Don’t you hate how unwieldy pizzas can be? Dominos’s new canned pizza is not only compact, it’s long-lasting, so you can stock up your bomb shelter and never go without a slice!

giant squid

Need something with a bit more substance? How about Hanamaru Udon‘s giant squid, caught daily by harpoon fishing and fried up as tempura, from  That will be ¥87,000, please.

Silky

Taking aim at Line, the runaway hit app of the past year, search site Goo offers Silky, the old favorite for free and simple communication. And you can send silly stamps too!  And  yes, it’s biodegradable tech, too?

Forcebook

We have to give full props to Eiga.com, a movie info site, for its execution of Yoda’s account on Forcebook. They got every detail right … from George Lucas friending J.J. Abrams to  Anakin Skywalker changing his account name to Darth Vader to R2D2 denial of Jar Jar Bink’s friend request. One ad shows has Imperial Storm Troopers raising funds to rebuild Death Star. May the forceful guffaw go with you.

By the way, did you spot this one in The Japan Times. I mean we highly admire professor Mogura Tataki’s mission to eliminate society’s bias against lefties but  something tells us we’re being pawned.

 (Research by Shinjin Ono and Kazuhiro Kobayashi)

Is Facebook’s ‘Check-in Coupon’ a good deal in Japan?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Japan recently became the first country in Asia to get a local version of Facebook Deals, called “Check-in Coupon” here, and Facebook announced the move with an event in Shibuya. (No one who covered the outdoor event could resist giggling at the irony of the local PR staff asking  the audience not to take or share pictures.)

Check in for chicken

The location-based coupons work the same here as in other cities where the service has been implemented. On a smartphone running the Facebook app, the Places feature shows nearby sports where the users can “check in” (i.e., announce to Facebook friends where they are). Shops offering coupons have a yellow icon next to the name. Click on a place with a coupon, and the coupon details appear. If you click again on the shop’s details to check in, you will simultaneously get the coupon displayed on your screen (which you can later show at the register to get your discount) and send a message alerting all your Facebook friends about the coupon. The idea is that it’s a win-win-win: You’ve saved money, the store has gotten a little advertising, and all your friends can congratulate you on your savvy shopping.

That last bit could be where it gets tricky. How many of your coupon acquisitions will your friends comment on before they get annoyed and hide your activity or even defriend you? While anonymous group buying through PomPare and Groupon have proven popular in Japan (though not without great big stumbles), will the Japanese preference for online privacy thwart the extroversion on which the check-in coupon thrives? Of the initial deals offered by the roll-out partners, none is anything we’d risk alienating friends for.

Continue reading about Facebook's Check-in Coupons →

An early warning system in every pocket

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The “bwoop, bwoop, bwoop!” of cell-phone earthquake alerts is enough to scare the bejeezus out of most people in the near vicinity, especially anyone who experienced the March 11 Tohoku-Kanto quake. A fantastic invention that beams info from Japan’s Meterological agency directly to your phone, the service can predict the occurrence of an earthquake from a few seconds up to a minute in advance. But does it have to be so damned terrifying? The makers of apps for Android and iPhones clearly think not.

Yurekuru kooru (tremor’s coming call) for the iPhone, available on iTunes, tinkles urgently (see video above) to announce the arrival of a tremor. Since the big one hit last month, followed by innumerable tremors, subscribers to the service have multiplied tenfold and downloads have now broken the 1 million mark: Testament to the popularity of the iPhone and to the feelings of uneasiness most Japanese are experiencing at the moment.

For Android users there’s the Namazu Sokuhou β (Catfish Report β). Users are able to choose their own warning noise; though it’s important to make sure it’s not too subtle, the service should be able to wake you up in the middle of the night after all. In Japanese mythology giant catfish living in mud underground were thought to be the cause of earthquakes, hence the catfish reference in the app’s title. Users should note that the app is still in beta.

Japan’s earthquake early-warning service predicts larger quakes on the basis of the preceding P-waves and sends messages out to phones after tremors are felt by over 1,000 seismographs throughout the country. Quick calculations are then done to predict the size of the subsequent quake and that figure is reported on the cell-phone screen as well as estimated time of impact. A detailed explanation of this sophisticated system can be read in this article in Time magazine.

Both of these apps are free to download. Users of AU, DoCoMo and SoftBank also receive free reports but don’t get much say in how their earthquake warning message is delivered. Comments on Twitter from jittery Japanese suggest these apps are filling a definite need: “I duck underneath the table every time I hear the warning. It’s like an air-raid siren,” UnConiglioNero states on Twitter.

Charismatic shop assistants are back in style

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Shop assistant Ainyan updates her cell phone blog every day with exhaustive details about her diet, hair style, makeup and clothes. To the uninitiated, Ainyan’s blog, illustrated with blurry shots of her hugging friends in purikura photo booth or looking up cutely into the camera, looks amateurish, almost as if it were made for a limited audience of friends only. But Ainyan is somewhat of a celebrity in the world of keitai (cell-phone) blogging. Last week her blog was the No. 1 cell-phone blog on Crooz, a mobile blog portal aimed at young women, and next month her makeup secrets will be disclosed in a cosmetics magazine.

Ainyan' cell phone blog

Ainyan' cell phone blog

According to J-Cast, Ainyan’s popularity is an indication that the trend of kyarizuma teiin (charismatic shop assistant) is back. The trend first surfaced over a decade ago when attractive shop assistants in exclusive stores began to gain celebrity status. These new celebrities were often featured in fashion magazines, dishing out beauty and fashion advice. The trend resulted in customers visiting stores to get a glimpse of these retail idols and often sales of whatever outfit their icon was wearing at the time. It was great business for the stores and some clerks made names for themselves. According to Tokyo Kawaii, the success of charisma teiin Yoko Morimoto lead to a book and the launch of her own fashion brand.

This time, however, the trend is driven by cell-phone blogs, which are commute-friendly. The reason why girls are so interested in Ainyan’s blog, rather than those of her contemporaries, is that she works at the Wakatsuki Chinatsu concession in the teen paradise of Shibuya 109, which puts her at the pinnacle of gyaru style. She’s not the only one enjoying celebrity status, another 109 shop assistant called Morimayu, who again works in 109 (for TutuHA), is also highly regarded as a teen style icon and has appeared in fashion magazines such as Popteen.

The charm of the blogs for young girls is that they can relate on a personal level to both Morimayu and Ainyan. Morimayu has a rant about periods in one post while Ainyan discusses her body image issues with disarming frankness: “I think I’ve lost weight around my stomach and a little around my calves but my butt is still a problem!!!”

Both girls are working their newly found fame for all it’s worth, and it’s pretty obvious from reading the blogs that there’s some none-too-subtle product placement going on. Considering the fact that these girls work long hours for not a lot of pay, it’s hard to begrudge them for milking their new celebrity status to the fullest.

Publishers flock to next-generation newsstands

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

SoftBank's Viewn service allows users to read a wide range of publications for a flat monthly fee

SoftBank’s Viewn service allows users to read a wide range of publications for a monthly fee

Spurred on by the early innovations of mobile-phone carriers, namely DoCoMo’s i-mode platform, Japan’s publishing industry was quick to get its content on the small screens of cell phones – and charge handsomely for it.  But the times they are a-changin’ again, with new options in print-promotion strategies, distribution channels and business models.

In June, online magazine store Magastore, which was previously mainly orientated toward iPhone/iPad users, went Android-friendly, thus opening its doors to all au and DoCoMo smartphone users (before, it was only available for DoCoMo users on the i-mode platform). Launched last year, Magastore provides content from 20 Japanese publishers, including major-league names such as Asahi Shimbun and Sony. Magazines can cost up to ¥500 and popular titles include Spa!Newsweek and Oz Magazine.

Since Magastore became widely available to their rivals, SoftBank, who exclusively sell the iPhone in Japan, went one better by launching Viewn (ビューン )  in the same month that Magastore went live with Android. Aimed at iPhone users and SoftBank’s 3G customers, Viewn offers free content from 31 different kinds of newspapers and magazines for a flat fee of ¥450 a month, with the first month free. Viewn boasts famous titles such as fashion magazine CanCam and news daily Mainichi Shimbun, but content is limited: Users have to put up with banner advertising and can access only selected articles.

Readers only interested in reading a particular article can now benefit from a website that went live this month. Providing individual electronic versions of articles published in magazines and books, G-Search Mitsuke! offers users a cheaper alternative to buying the entire publication. An article from The Economist, for example, costs ¥210, as opposed to buying the entire print publication at ¥650. As J-Cast points out, though, the problem is there’s a delay between the print edition’s release and G-Search Mitsuke!’s digital version. G-Search Mitsuke! articles can be read on virtually any cell phone, but the clunky PDF format doesn’t exactly promise an easy read.

Though G-Search Mitsuke and Magastore titles are available to users of all the big three cell-phone carriers, Viewn is exclusively in the clutches of SoftBank, meaning we can expect au and DoCoMo to continue to play catch-up.

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.

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