Monday, March 29, 2010

Softbank announces HTC Desire (android) and doubled network capacity


Softbank made two big announcements yesterday. First (pdf), we now know which android phone is coming to softbank, the HTC Desire (X06HT). This phone is very similar to the Google Nexus One, which is also made by HTC. The largest difference are the lack of a trackball, the addition of the HTC Sense UI on top of the Android OS (version 2.1), and apparently both a CDMA and GSM radio. (See comment from Matthew.)

Softbank plans to offer the Desire from around the end of April. While I didn't see a price in the press release, according to cnet Japan, the phone will likely need to be priced at around ¥20,000 (presumably with subsidy and 2-year contract).

Next, Softbank announced (pdf) several steps to answer the many customer demands for an improved network.
  • Doubling the number of base stations by the end of fiscal 2010 to better reach areas with weak on no coverage.
  • Free home and business mini base stations, including any necessary hardware, for customers who cannot receive a usable cell signal. Application will be accepted from May 5, 2010. At the very least, an analog phone line is required for this service.
  • Free wifi routers for businesses considering providing access points for customers.
I am obviously not a fan of softbank, but I do give credit where it is due. Congratulations to softbank for listening to customer complaints about your network (I hear it can be quite bad for people in rural areas) and for doing something to increase the number of wifi access points in Japan, which are virtually nonexistent.

Regarding access points, a wifi router with a 3G WAN connection would be extremely simple for a cafe owner to setup, and, if the price is reasonable for the business, maybe we'll soon see more free wifi at coffee shops.  I do wonder how this will affect Yahoo BB access points, which are not free.

51 comments:

  1. Your CDMA/GSM point is a little off .. it's W-CDMA aka UMTS which was invented by DoCoMo and is the same as all phones on DoCoMo/Softbank/Emobile including iPhone and Nexus One.

    Also, any more detail about why an analog line is required for the femtocell?

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  2. I was thinking that didn't make sense, which is while a put apparently, so I'll edit that. Thanks for the clarification.

    The actual press release says:
    ブロードバンド回線がない場合には、フェムト専用ADSLサービスも併 せて無料で提供します。
    which goes something like: "for customers with no broadband access, a free femtocell ADSL service will be provided."

    followed by
    一般的ブロードバンド回線をお持ちでないお客さまの場合、フェムト専用ADSLサービス/Wi-Fiルーター 専用ADSLサービスには、アナログ電話回線が必要です。
    "for customers with no broadband access, femtocell and wifi router ADSL service requires an analog phone line.

    I just condensed and shorted all this to say simply At the very least, an analog phone line is required for this service.

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  3. Yeah, I think then that if you have broadband you are OK and don't need an analog line (like a lot of people these days with only fiber... including me...) The coolest thing would be if you can bring your femtocell with you when you go abroad and have your softbank working from the hotel, etc.

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  4. Doesn't using a femtocell send your cell phone voice/data connection through your ISP and into softbank, in this case? I wonder if these minutes are treated differently than minutes in which you are actually using softbank's cell phone wireless network. If they are not, if softbank still counts them as coming off your calling plan, then they're really still charging you for their network, but they're not actually giving it to you. They're just selling you voice minutes -- the most expensive part of Japanese MNO's. Far better would be to use WiFi via a VOIP app on your phone. This would be a way of really cutting costs and network congestion.

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  5. You'll certainly be OK with a fiber connection, but I think there is a snowball's chance in a very hot place that you could use it overseas.

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  6. Kinda goes along the same lines of SMS pricing in the US. I think someone actually did the math and concluded that if SMS prices were charged, an iTunes music file download would cost something too ridiculous to repeat. ;-)

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  7. On the side-note, AU has announced their own Android phone, but it's not really worth looking at. (Actually I would recommend not looking at it at all if it can be avoided. If you really must look at it, don't stare for too long.)
    http://en.akihabaranews.com/41510/phone/hands-on-jn-dk01-and-is01-sharp-and-au-first-android-mid

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  8. It ain't so bad if you think of it as a tiny netbook.

    It does have two things about it that are significant, though. It is the first android device I know of by a Japanese company and the first with infrared and one seg (two of the three things I hear Japanese people say imported smart phones lack).

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  9. I am a regular visitor of this interesting blog.
    Is Desire available in ENG language mode?

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  10. Hi veejar, thanks for you comment.

    There has been no information released so far, but I would be very very surprised if the phone could not be set to English. I would go so far as to say not having an English mode would be ridiculously stupid. I wouldn't worry about the phone being only Japanese. But do confirm with the staff before you buy one that it can do English.

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  11. Usually in Japan they keep English. But the wont keep any other language (very kind isn't it?)
    If you wish you can always root your phone and install a custom rom (several translation are available)
    Be aware that by rooting you invalidate your guarantee

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  12. Went down to my neighborhood Softbank store to pre-order this thing. The guy behind the desk had no clue about any of it. Apparently they sprung this on their own people as well, because all he could do was take down my phone number and promise to call me back when they had more information.

    From what I've been able to tell about this phone, it doesn't sound particularly attractive. Apparently, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, HTC is not particularly interested in providing OS updates for their older phone models, so this thing is unlikely to be upgradeable. That may be the one killer advantage that the N1 has over the other various Android based phones.

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  13. I hear that HTC is working on an update for the magic...

    What do you think of the Sense UI? Would you rather have that or the standard android UI?

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  14. I haven't seen the Sense UI yet, but I have read that people either love it or hate it. Apparently you can turn it off in this phone if you don't like it. I could probably live with it. What I really don't want to live without is the utility of OS upgrades. I'm stuck on 1.6 Android, which is sluggish, lacks multi-touch, voice navigation, Flash lite, etc. Updates may be coming soon, but then again maybe not. Nobody has come out and said yes, we'll upgrade that phone of yours. I'd be willing to bet that the Nexus 1 will get an upgrade to Froyo and beyond before everyone else does, and that's like getting a brand new phone for free.

    The analogy from the PC world would be having to depend on Dell to upgrade Windows for your PC. Its not in Dell's interest to make your old PC continue to be useful. They'd rather you just buy the new PC from them with the new OS pre-installed. That's terrible for you because you have to buy a lot more hardware than you need. In this case it's worse, though...since it's the carrier not the manufacturer that has to provide the update, so it's like depending on NTT to upgrade your Windows on your Dell laptop because you happen to use their network for internet access. No wonder it takes so long to get the updates out.

    Btw, you and your readers may already know this, but just in case you don't, you can buy the Nexus 1 and a bunch of other foreign phones from this Akihabara retailer. They have them in stock. Cost is quite a bit less than ordering off Ebay. Check it out:

    http://www.mobileplaza.co.jp/

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  15. Hi,

    Any reason why Softbank has not listed the HTC Desire on English product page?
    http://mb.softbank.jp/en/products/htc/

    Regards

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  16. Ok... is anyone else still waiting for the Desire? I was waiting for the release in April, then they pushed it back to the ending of May, I just went back yesterday and they told me that they pushed it back to the ending of June... Does anyone know WTF is going on at Softbank!? By the time they get this out... I may be willing to wait for 4G!

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  17. is everyone seeing them in local softbank stores? I was suprised when I walked past the Desire on display at a Jusco two weeks ago as I had not heard it was coming to Softbank. I just assumed the display meant they are selling already. Is that not the case?

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  18. On Saturday, I got the phone call from one of about 10 softbank stores that i visited, that the Desire was in! YESSS!!! (I went to a bunch of stores and told them to call me when it came in) Seems like out of all the stores, only one of them received the Desire so far... the others haven't... Strange... Sooo... yeah, I finally got my Desire, and now I'm trying to get over the learning curve of switching to a smart phone. =P It was F'N annoying/frustrating at first, but I'm slowly starting to love it!

    Which brings me to the question that the retarded shop shop clerk couldn't answer... The Desire is capable of being a "hot spot" right? Did Softbank gimp this feature or can I actually use it w/o being F'd up the @$$ at the end of the month?

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  19. You can do that if you "root" the phone to get superuser permissions. In unix, there are three different sets of privileges an individual account can have, user (which usually means you can't write to areas outside of your home directory), administrator (which usually means you can access everything except system files), and root or superuser, which means you do anything you want, including totally hosing your system.

    The folks at XDA have succeeded in rooting the desire.
    http://www.xda-developers.com/android/root-achieved-on-htc-desire/

    You can then use this for tethering with both bluetooth and wifi if you root.
    http://code.google.com/p/android-wifi-tether/

    But it sounds like some people might be having trouble with the desire
    http://code.google.com/p/android-wifi-tether/issues/detail?id=330

    Rooting your phone will void your warranty and be in violation of the terms of service from softbank. You may have to flash a new baseband (radio) and SPL (secondary program loader, i.e. boot loader). If something goes wrong, you will brick the phone.

    I'd advise you to use it as it for a while but start reading up on linux and rooting. Does softbank offer a replacement warranty if you break the phone? If so and you try to root and brick it, you can always say you "lost" it and get a new one - Docomo offers this for ~ 5000 yen.

    Another reason to wait is to make sure there is no factory defect in your phone, since if you discover it post rooting, you're screwed.

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  20. i was in akiba yodabashi camera today and they have a bunch to play with. look NICE!!

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  21. Thanks for the info. That sounds kinda scary... I'm not that good w/ electronics... so I'm afraid that I might brick the phone. I'm paying for the insurance policy on the phone... but i'm not fluent in Japanese, so I don't know EXACTLY what's covered... =/ I guess I can do w/o the tethering... but it would be nice to have. (e.g. surfing to sites that are blocked by my work place's connection.) =P

    What I have noticed since getting my Desire, is that the Google Maps is HORRIBLY inaccurate!!! Read: about 5km off!!! This is w/ the GPS off and only using the Network to triangulate my position. If I go outdoors and turn the GPS on, it's extremely accurate. I borrowed my friend's and softbanks's iphone to see if it was just softbank's horrible connection, but the iphone found the location accurately and MUCH faster than the Desire could. How could this be??? The specs on the Desire are better than the iphone (3G)!!! I'm starting to get worried... will i be locked into a 2 year contract w/ a sub par phone? everything i read about the Desire B4 buying it said that it was king of the Androids (except for the Evo). Could it be a defective Desire??? Please advise me! ='(

    OH! Also, it seems that it's harder for me to get a connection to the network w/ the Desire. W/ my old phone, I'd see a lot of dead spots, but now, places that used to be fine are now dead spots too! Ack!

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  22. The same happens for me when I turn off GPS on maps. Honestly, it is best to use GPS when you have line of sight to the sky - I don't think tower triangulation works very well.

    I wouldn't worry about the hardware being subpar - HTC is making great phones.

    If you are worried, take it into a store and explain the problem (maybe get someone to help with the Japanese). Since it is a new phone, there isn't a lot of chatter on the web about 3G connections. In setting, you can check the baseband version (radio) and google the radio and see if people are saying it has trouble connecting. Probably best to take it into a store and explain that you had a good connection with the old phone at place X but the desire has no connection at the same location.

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  23. yes, but they don't have to buy :(
    I walked a lot today trying to find and advices on were to check in Tokyo area?

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  24. sounds like they have them at yodabashi akiba.

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  25. no... that was my first try on Friday afternoon. They had several to try but not to buy.
    They told me that I could make a reservation but it would take "more than a month" to arrive and they couldn't specify more than that so I didn't order it

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  26. bit of a noob question but if I have an ihpne 3g now, still on my 2 year contract, could I get a desire from hongkong (sim free) and fire in my iphone sim card and simply continue with my white plan pake hodai?

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  27. As far as I know, yes. You'll need to google for the iphone APN, though because it is different from the x series APN. I think the iphone APN is the "smile" APN.
    Read this whole thread so that you know what you are in for:
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=441400
    Setting the APN wrong can leave you with a HUGE bill.

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  28. I played with the phone at my local Yodobashi last Sunday. Not only that they deleted all languages but Japanese and English, also MMS and Softbank mail seem to be unusable. My god, the J-model sucks more than I was worried.
    Any news on a freely available SIM-Card so far? O r the SIM-lock issue? It's almost end of eJune...

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  29. Right now, the ministry of infrastructure and communications is public comments on it. I've been busy and didn't get a chance to post about it, which is a shame, because we could have at least given are 2 yen to the govt about it. Deadline for submission is tomorrow at 6 pm, I believe

    http://www.soumu.go.jp/menu_news/s-news/02kiban02_02000042.html

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  30. After what I have seen 2 days ago, I am likely to say that I do not care about the SimLock any more. All I want is a reasonably priced SimCard.

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  31. By two days ago, I guess you mean the Japanese desire with no German? Yeah, I can understand.

    So, if you decide to pick one up and bring it here, right now it is still only softbank on which you can use it. Data will be something like 5000 yen per month and I think the base fee for voice is around ~1000 yen.

    By the way, you got me thinking about this again and I went ahead and posted a translation of the guidelines or unlocking
    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2010/06/communications-ministry-soliciting.html

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  32. softbankDOESsuckJune 23, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Anyone have any solid info on where this phone is at in Tokyo? Harajuku softbank, no. Nakano softbank, no. Any confirmations?

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  33. Thanks softbanksucks, I just started fiddling with it a bit more and I've come to terms with it's awesome features and it's limitations... Once Froyo comes out though, I will be happy. The lack of memory F'n sucks. I widdled down the excess apps to the "must have" apps that I wanted, which JUST fit on the memory... then updates come... and i can't update unless i make a painful choice about which app to get rid of. Damn, I need Froyo bad...

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  34. Hello Softbanksucks,
    After a 6 week wait for my Desire Softbank told me yesterday that my unit would be delayed until the ed of July.

    Instead I am considering buying an unlocked unit from Hong Kong through a company called Expansys ( http://www.expansys.jp/d.aspx?i=196001)
    but was wondering if I would have any trouble using my red Vodafone SIM card from 2005.

    Has anyone had experience using a Droid with that old SIM card? Would it be better for me to "loose" my phone and ask for a new Softbank SIM card to replace it? Any advice would be appreciated!

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  35. Sorry, can't say for sure if it would work - you'd just have to try it and see. Of course, read up on all the things you need to do (Set proper APN and subscribe to smartphone data plan) if you haven't already.

    If you old phone is a smartphone, then you should already be subscribed to the proper plan, but I don't even know if softbank had any smartphone offerings in 2005...

    Best to accidentally damage the SIM card in some sort of freak accident so that you don't have to buy a new phone - unless you can get one from somebody to take into the softbank store and "activate".

    BTW, was in Yodobashi Akiba today they had a sign on the Desire saying they were taking orders. Asked a guy how long it would take to come in and he had said he had no idea at all.

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  36. Thanks for the advice- I think that my SIM card is going to get dunked in beer in the very near future!

    My phone has always been a bog standard model until now so I'll have to make that upgrade with softbank and hope that they don't get suspicious about the change.
    Thanks again

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  37. People report having to argue with them a bit because from the employee's point of view, there is no good reason to upgrade, so they are thinking "why in the world would you want this plan?"

    I hear you can change it online, which if that is still possible, would probably be the easiest option.

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  38. My buddy just received his Softbank Desire yesterday. It seems to support pushmail from his Googlemail account. I am confused...

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  39. As far as I know, Gmail is pushed to all android handsets. It is pushed to the docomo handsets, which don't have a docomo.ne.jp address.

    You can also get regular imap pushed if the server supports IDLE with the K-9 mail client, which is based on the original android mail client.

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  40. Yeah... I was pretty bummed that I couldn't keep my @softbank.ne.jp address. It's on all my business cards! =/

    I'm still having problems getting my Google calender to sync w/ my Desire too... *sigh*...

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  41. Wait a minute, you can't have softbank carrier mail with the Desire but you can with the iPhone???

    What is the problem with calendar syncing - does it just not sync at all or are things be left off, or is there a prob with notifications... etc...?

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  42. Nope... I asked the clerk about that, cause I wasn't getting emails. Told me that the desire can't get a softbank email. Then I brought up that same point about the iphone having a softbank email. but they just told me that the desire can't. =/

    As for the calendar sync... it's just not connecting/syncing at all. It in a perpetual state of "sync is currently experiencing problems. it will be back shortly" (error message) It's been that way for at least 3 weeks. (that i noticed) So, if i put something on my calendar via my phone, it won't show up online and vice versa. Which is a pain, cause I use the google calendar a lot. Along w/ google maps, documents, translate, etc.

    Facebook and gmail syncing seems to be working fine... it's just the damn calander...

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  43. I haven't seen any problem with my calendar (just checked an appointment that I changed yesterday on the phone and the change is correctly reflected on my calendar when accessing from the PC).

    iPhone also can't manage the softbank emails, but they had time to create a special app and servers to handle them (I think those are i.softbank addresses). When I bought my Desire, I already knew that the service that they will offer me would be not comparable as if I would have bought an iPhone.
    It was funny because in almost all the shops that I checked to see if they had Desire, the answer was "no, we don't have but I would recommend you to get an iPhone..." lol. At the beggining I explained why I wanted an android phone and I didn't like Apple policies etc, after a while I just got tired and just simply answer "no thank you". In some shops I felt the guys pushing too much (for a normal Japanese style), but I had my ideas clear so they couldn't change them.

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  44. At least part of softbank's strategy for increasing network capacity involves subsidized Femtocells:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/30/softbank_femto/

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  45. I'm surprised there is anyone here who didn't long ago get the oft-repeated message about the drawbacks of using carrier/ISP-provided email addresses. Meishi with a softbank address? Really? Is there something wrong with gmail, hotmail, or yahoo email that I don't know about?

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  46. I think the main problem is that many peoples phones are set by default to bounce any mail coming not coming from ezweb.ne.jp, softbank. ne.jp, or docomo.ne.jp, so mail delivery can be unreliable. This is a bazooka approach (when a fly swatter would work just fine) to combating spam. I have several friends on docomo that I can't send email to because it bounces and they can't be bother/can't figure out how to whitelist my gmail address. So I have to send the SMS, which of course incurs a separate (albeit small) charge.

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  47. Yeah, I've experienced the same problem. However, the people whose phones accept email only from other keitais still have no problem *sending* to gmail, yahoo, etc. I just included a note on those people's email addresses in my address book that they could not receive email from my gmail account.

    When I changed from softbank to ezweb, I just continued as before composing email from my keitai to those difficult contacts. It was mostly a transparent transitioon. There was never any reason to tell anyone my softbank or ezweb address. Some quick back-and-fourth replies were sent back to my keitai address, but no one ever needed to enter it in their address books.

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  48. Well, the reason why i usually give someone a business card is cause i'd like them to contact me. (e.g. networking, job related stuff, and the hot girl at the bar) So, giving several ways to contact me seems natural (e.g. work phone, fax, cell #, gmail, softbank.ne.jp). I've never changed my email address since opening my account, so oft-changing email address was not a problem... until now, since i no longer have a softbank email. which is ok i guess... it's about time for me to reorder new cards anywho...

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  49. After Softbank starts with the Iphone4-Hype I have the strong believe that this whole Android Desire thing was a smart way to keep the Iphone-killer number one under control. Seriously, I get such pissed to see daily all this full sized Iphone ads and Softbank is throwing a lot of money into this hype just to make sure that even the most resistant Japanese is eager to get an Iphone.

    And the Desire??? Most shops do not even have a real model on display, if you ask the stuff they point out "Go with an Iphone, go with an Iphone!!!"
    Yodobashi and Yamadalabi have about 30 m of shelf reserved for Iphone stuff. You can choose between 50 different cases, 30 chargers, etc. etc. The Desire shares a single half meter shelf with some other "foreigner" smartphones.

    Now, the Desire is not available since months within Japan. Guess, this would happen to the Iphone... the fanboys would burn down Yodobashi- and Softbank stores.

    If Docomo, or KDDI came up with the Desire, it had been heavily announced as "the Iphone competitor" with a lot of hype and ads.

    Overall, either Softbank is completely incompetent,
    the got some pressure from the big apple,
    or it was one of the smartest business tricks I ever saw.

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  50. I wouldn't say Softbank's smartphone strategy is all that terrible right now. I can understand how they might believe that the best way to introduce smartphones into the Japanese market is to pound out a highly iconic single device that can stand for a drastically different experience from the galapagos keitai. Their softbank-softbank free calling and SMS plan jives perfectly with their current strategy of boosting subscriber count; the more subscribers they have, the more attractive that part of Softbank's calling plan becomes to non-smartphone users.

    Nah, what really annoys me--and I hope this is going to be remedied come next year by the sounds of their new policies--is Docomo's lackluster response to the iPhone. Their top-selling, highly-advertised smartphone that is the closest thing they have to their iPhone killer? The Sony Xperia X10, which I read wasn't actually that good of a phone when compared to the global competition. I bet the only reason they chose that one was because it had the Sony brand name on it, to trick the customers into believing they are supporting a Japanese company (hint: Ericsson isn't a Japanese name). Not to mention all this talk of the CEO doing whatever he can to get the iPhone on Docomo really leads me to believe he's looking in the wrong direction here.

    Pretty much, Softbank has been doing a decent job of catering to the smartphone crowd by offering a wider variety of smartphones in different form factors (they have at least two WinMo phones I wouldn't mind being seen with), while Docomo so far has the X10... and that's it really.

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