Monday, October 5, 2009

We now have an Android phone!


One member of the softbank sucks team nearly destroyed a DoCoMo phone by rolling over it with an office chair (exact words were: 内蔵が出ています). This prompted a visit to the DoCoMo Shop, where we had the opportunity to try out the HTC-03A (aka HTC Magic, Google Phone, or Android Phone).

We were impressed. So we got one.

In case you don't know, Android is a smartphone OS created by Google that runs the linux kernel. Linux is typically referred to as a UNIX-like operating system, and some popular desktop examples are Ubuntu and Red Hat. Mac OS 10 and the iPhone OS are also, at the core, derived from UNIX.

While at a very low level, which is not apparent to the user, there are a number of similarities between the Android OS and the iPhone OS, these two phone operating systems are actually quite different in implementation. The iPhone OS runs only on Apple-branded hardware and is a locked-down, closed environment to which Apple is the gatekeeper. The only way to install applications (without violating the iPhones EULA) is to download approved apps through iTunes.

Android, on the other hand, is an open-source OS that is available to any cellphone maker and already is preinstalled on several phones. Apps can be downloaded and installed from anywhere. For example, we've already found and installed the Last.fm streaming app which is supposed to be only available to people in the US and UK.

We will post our impressions of the phone after we have time to play with it a bit more, but so far we can say that the Android OS can certainly become a serious competitor to the iPhone OS. Unfortunately, it is still relatively immature and lacks the large developer community of the iPhone... For now (we hope).

For now, we'll leave you with a summary of the buying experience and a few bullet points.

It took about an hour to get all the paperwork done. The credit examination also took about an hour. We were given a number and a time to check back with the store. About an hour before we were supposed to come back, our AU phone vibrated and announced to us that it no longer had a phone number (due to MNP). This was our indication that we had passed the credit check and our new DoCoMo phone was active. So we headed back to the store and sure enough, the phone was ready.

Some important points:
  • The phone is about ¥30,000 with a new 2-year contract at a standard DoCoMo shop.
  • The phone is only about ¥15,000 (or less) if purchased from a large electronics store with a 2-year contract. (we got ours at our favorite Yodobashi Camera.)
  • A contract is not required.
  • The price of the phone may be paid in 12 or 24 or 1 installment. We just paid upfront the entire amount, which was less than ¥15,000.
  • Only identification required is your foreign registration card.
  • You only need a minimum of 90 days remaining on your visa.
  • Conbini-barai is NOT an option for new contracts.
  • You may choose to pay monthly by either bank draft or credit card, whichever you prefer (as opposed to the other way around like at some phone companies that suck).
  • Our sales person claimed DoCoMo discloses the reasons for credit rejection with the applicant (!)
  • Data and voice plan prices are similar to the those of the iPhone.

4 comments:

  1. Really, softbank sucks. I love my iPhone, but, living in the hinterlands of Japan i'd rather like to use the networks of DoCoMo or AU. Softbank says it covers a lot of remote areas, but, in fact 3G is not always available. Softbank does not provide accurate data on the areas their network is covering. This really, really sucks. However, as most iPhone users are living in the cities, this basic problem is not too urgent for Softbank i suppose. I can't count how often i saw a blue dot in a grey matrix screen on my iPhone when travelling to remote onsens etc.
    I hope you are happy with your Android phone!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here are links to posts by some Japanese iPhone customers complaining about 圏外:
    http://blog.pasonatech.co.jp/ootani/7945.html
    http://okaokay.blog53.fc2.com/blog-entry-53.html
    http://softbanknews.ldblog.jp/archives/1014202.html
    http://www.atmarkit.co.jp/fnetwork/column/narumono25/01.html
    http://blog.livedoor.jp/mensstudio/archives/50767030.html
    http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/aqua_nol/55993083.html
    And here's a link to the site where SoftBank claims to cover its network area.
    http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/service_area/
    Note that their data network is covering a different area. (all PDFs)
    http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/data_com/service_area/flat/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah, I can understand your frustration. It is pretty much common knowledge that the DoCoMo network is the most well developed. It is also well known that Softbanks' network is not.

    I had never really liked DoCoMo because I have issues with NTT, but I must say it was nice to have a reasonable application procedure. Softbank's requirements are just ridiculous compared to DoCoMo's.

    As for the phone, so far it is pretty good. Has somethings that the iPhone does not (user changeable battery and a SD card slot), but is missing somethings (massive amount of built-in memory).

    Biggest issue so far is email. As with the iphone, push notifications (I assume it uses push but haven't confirmed) are slow to come at times on the 3G network. I have been told that DoCoMo is working on the problem with Google, but there is no time frame for resolution. Or in other words, they probably have no idea what the problem is.

    Given the current battery technology, reliable notification of email delivery is going to be an issue for an smartphone IMHO. There needs to be a fine balance between battery usage and delivery speed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, I can understand your frustration. It is pretty much common knowledge that the DoCoMo network is the most well developed. It is also well known that Softbanks' network is not.

    I had never really liked DoCoMo because I have issues with NTT, but I must say it was nice to have a reasonable application procedure. Softbank's requirements are just ridiculous compared to DoCoMo's.

    As for the phone, so far it is pretty good. Has somethings that the iPhone does not (user changeable battery and a SD card slot), but is missing somethings (massive amount of built-in memory).

    Biggest issue so far is email. As with the iphone, push notifications (I assume it uses push but haven't confirmed) are slow to come at times on the 3G network. I have been told that DoCoMo is working on the problem with Google, but there is no time frame for resolution. Or in other words, they probably have no idea what the problem is.

    Given the current battery technology, reliable notification of email delivery is going to be an issue for an smartphone IMHO. There needs to be a fine balance between battery usage and delivery speed.

    ReplyDelete