Posts Tagged ‘mobile phones’

J-blip: Bandai’s smartphone panties

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

A new line of smartphone underpants has recently gone on sale. The mini panties, made by Bandai, are worn at the base of the smartphone, covering the home button. A home button sticker is also provided to protect your phone’s most thumbed area when the knickers have been removed. Aimed at teens of 15 years and above, the first range was introduced in March this year and sold so well that a brand new line has just gone on sale. You can find them in Gashapon machines. Costing just ¥200, the new styles include Mount Fuji, a banana print and lurid pink.

To see the full range check out Fashion Snap’s gallery.

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.



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.


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?


We have to give full props to, 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)

Tough commute? Let these apps ease the pain

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

It’s a fact of life in the big cities of Japan that the morning commuter trains will be jammed packed. There’s really no way around it for bedtown residents but luckily for the country’s million of 9-to-5 salaried workers,  this summer saw the launch of three new apps that can quite literally help commuters out of a jam, or at least make it a bit more bearable.

Komirepo: The name says it all, komi, meaning crowded and repo, a contraction of the loanword report, this app lets you know which routes are most crowded. Each route is given a rating from one through six – one  meaning you’ve got plenty of space to sit down in and six meaning get ready to go bumper to bumper with a bunch of strangers – allowing you the option to switch to a less congested line. The information is updated by users in realtime, making it a largely reliable service. Made by Navitime, a software provider that already provides a huge range of apps to help with navigating your way around Japan, Komirepo is free of charge, but unfortunately not available in English.

Densha de Suwaru: Though Komirepo is great for those who suffer from claustrophobia, it’s not a surefire solution for those who really need a seat, especially in Tokyo where virtually all routes are busy during rush hour. Users of this app form alliances with other commuters, letting each other know what route they’re riding, which carriage they’re on and when they’re about to vacate a seat. This requires sacrificing a certain amount of privacy as you have to let others know what you look like, but it does it in such a cute way that it seems churlish to object. To let that seat-hungry member of your group know who you are, you simply create and dress up a cute little avatar of yourself, letting them know your age group, hair style and choice of clothing. Once they’ve spotted you they can simply sidle up and wait for you to leave the train.

Densha de Go! Yamanote Sen: Once you’ve got yourself seated, you’ll need something to pass the time. Why not pretend that you’re in control of driving the train (see video above). This Yamanote Line version is the latest release in a series of games by Taito that realistically simulate the experience of driving a train on actual routes within Japan. Excitement within the game is somewhat sacrificed to realism, as goals include things like keeping to the timetable, but it’s pretty much a must for train geeks.

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 →

Smartphone support just got smarter

Friday, June 10th, 2011

They're all so smart

In a departure from running single-brand shops, NEC Mobiling has opened an all-carrier, all smart-device store called AND Market Kasumigaseki. The experimental shop hooks up customers with smart phones and contracts from the major carriers, docomo, au by KDDI and SoftBank and EMobile, as well as tablet and notebook PCs. They also have a staff of “smart concierges” who help people choose the right phone, regardless of brand, and help users transition from older to newer devices. They offer paid services such as transferring data or photos and helping people figure out how to load and use apps.

AND Market is the next logical step in the trend of smartphone repair shops. Since the end of last year, stand-alone storefronts and mini-shops inside department stores have done walk-in repairs. For example, Dr. Mobile and sister shop S/MART fix cracked screens and replace batteries at shops in Shinjuku, Akihabara and Fukuoka. A trendy version of S/MART in Shibuya’s Parco department store also has some 2,000 varieties of smartphone covers.

Palette Plaza has also expanded the store’s original business — photo printing — to include a mobile phone dealership. Customers can draw up new contracts or upgrade with any of the major carriers. While some higher-end keitai (non-smart, or “regular” Japanese cellphones) are available, the focus is clearly on smartphones and their accessories. They’ve got a wide variety of cases, from the manly to the bejeweled, for each model and expensive add-ons like phone-docking speaker systems and silicone Bluetooth keyboards that can be rolled up.

Continue reading about smartphone services &arr;

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.

Japan by the numbers (09.24.10)

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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.


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