Wednesday, August 25, 2010

B-Mobile iPhone 4 micro SIM will be fast but only for certain apps

B-Mobile announced the b-micro TalkingSIM Platinum Service and the b-microSIM for the iPhone 4.

B-Mobile seems to be moving towards offering two types of data plans: 1) a symmetric 300 kbps plan with restrictions on streaming for around ¥3000 per month, and 2) a platinum plan offering higher speed, as well as streaming, for about ¥6000 per month. The platinum plan also supports tethering a PC via USB or bluetooth, but at only 300 kbps.

However, there is an issue to overcome: tethering.

The b-micro TalkingSIM platinum allows higher speed access, though not necessarily unrestricted access to Docomo's 7.2 Mbps network, only for certain apps, which are referred to as the "iPhone 4 exclusive network." (The iPad is not listed as supported.) As far as I can tell, any other traffic would be restricted to 300 kbps. This will allow the use of data-hungry apps like youtube and skype, while negating the risk of excessive packet use via a tethered PC.

Of course I would like to see the U300 data-only SIM and the TalkingSIM offered in two flavors, regular and platinum, with no restrictions on platforms (as long as it is certified for use in Japan), and in two sizes, regular and micro, but I don't see how B-Mobile can accomplish this without getting burned in packet costs paid to Docomo.

Here are the whitelisted apps.
  • Mobile Safari
  • App Store
  • Apple Mail app
  • iTunes (Podcast) 
  • radiko
  • YouTube (Mobile version)
  • Ustream live Broardcast
  • Google Maps app
  • evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Skype
    Here is the breakdown on price. Though not announced yet, TOS will most likely be similar to the talkingSIM, meaning proof of residency and a credit card will probably be required.
    • ¥3150 one-time new contract registration fee
    • ¥6,260 base fee (includes unlimited data)
    • ¥1,050 voice fee (25 free included minutes)
    • Additional minutes @ ¥21/half minute (same typical rate of the big three carriers)
    • No information on SMS price

    Pricing for the b-microSIM is the same as their full-sized data SIM, and so is the speed, 300 kbps. I also assume the TOS will be similar, which, if they are, means no credit card and proof of residency required. iPad is not supported Well, perhaps it is and the website simply does not reflect it. After all, we've had a number of reports of chopped down U300's working in iPads.
    • 1 year for 29,800 yen
    • 6 months for 14,900 yen
    • 1 month for 2980 yen.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    S! Mail coming to HTC Desire

    Reader Darren pointed out to me that Softbank announced last month that an application to enable S! Mail on the HTC Desire (X06HT) and on the newer version with the with the SLCD screen (X06HTII). The application will be available from the Android Market sometime in September.

    I don't see any reason why someone with an overseas Desire couldn't use this app to enable their address.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Yomiuri Interview with Docomo execs on SIM unlocking

    A few days ago, the Yomiuri sat down with two Docomo execs to ask about future plans and products after the company adopts the SIM unlocking guidelines from fiscal 2011. Interviewed were Kouji Furukawa, the head of the office for planning and coordination (古川浩司 企画調整室長), and Ryoukichi Takahashi, The head of the planning section (高橋亮吉 企画担当課長).

    There is one sentence, the last one in the answer to the first question that I am just not fully getting because it reads to me that the other carriers (i.e., softbank) have already agreed to follow the unlock guidelines, and if they didn't, neither would have Docomo. However, I am not aware that Softbank has agreed to anything of the sort, though it was mentioned that meetings have already started for working out a strategy for handling maintenance to branded phones that are off network...
    If it said 実施しないかもしれません, it would make more sense (to me at least). It would also be a bit disturbing since it would imply that Docomo would potentially back out.

    Anyways, as always, this is not a translation, per se, but rather me writing in English what the Japanese means to me. Standard disclaimers apply.

    The interview did not provide much in the way of new information, although the interviewer did mention that many people believe Docomo's desire for unlocking is really just a desire for the iPhone. The Docomo execs also took some swipes at Softbank's locking of the iPhone/iPad. Perhaps most interesting is, in the final question, Furukawa mentions that future competition will come down to service plans, not only their price but how easy a particular plan is to understand.

    Docomo is notorious, as all J-carriers are, for making plans ridiculously complicated.  Imagine a Japan where you don't need a calculator to figure out just how many minutes you talked on the phone. (I'll believe it when I see it.)


    Yomiuri: Tell us how SIM unlocking is going to work.

    Furukawa: Docomo will begin selling unlocked handsets with the summer models to be announced in May, 2011. The MIC has indicated that from April, 2011, capable handsets should be unlocked. Because these guidelines are based on customer desire, there is no reason not to comply. However, if the other companies did not comply, maybe docomo would not have either.

    Y: What will change with unlocking?

    F: First of all, the possibility of using your domestic handset abroad will increase. With an unlocked handset, a comparatively inexpensive service contract with a local carrier is possible. Of course, the functionality of the handset will be limited. Domestically, each carrier's coverage area is different, so having a signal is most important.

    Y: It has been said that the reason for for you to unlock SIMs is to bring Softbank's popular iPhone to Docomo.

    F: I've heard that too, but the first priority is customer convenience and choice. The reason is to follow the MIC's clearly written guidelines. While the iPhone is most certainly selling extremely well now, I don't know if it still will be two to three years later. If we were to release a killer handset that everyone wanted, we would under no circumstances sell it locked to our network.

    Investigating a convenient process based on foreign case studies

    Y: What would be the best process for customers?

    Takahashi: Currently, we are formulating a detailed plan while studying overseas examples. I believe the model will be one in which the customer purchases a handset from a Docomo shop, then Docomo unlocks the handset and returns it to the customer.

    F: When unlocking a handset, various restrictions will be encountered. After changing carriers, the only usable functions will be voice and SMS. Proprietary services, such as Docomo's i-mode, will not function on another carrier's network. Therefore, rather than providing unlock codes over the internet, we would prefer for customers to come in person to one our our shops so we may properly explain the restrictions.

    Cooperative preparations for after service are indispensable

    Y: How will handset service be accomplished

    T: If a customer takes an unlocked Docomo phone to another carrier, it would be extremely unkind of us to just say that customer is on their own with regards to service. So, all carriers must work out a means for servicing handsets.

    F: In July, all carriers participated in our first meeting to exchange ideas. We are putting together a system with the cooperation of each carrier.

    Promoting competition based on service fees

    Y: With the addition of new features, won't handset prices increase?

    F: While there will most likely be a service charge for unlocking, I don't expect that there will be a large increase in handset price. From now, the criteria upon which a customer chooses a carrier will not be based solely upon coverage area or handset quality, but is also likely to include the price of service plans. Indeed, a price war could result.

    Y: Tell us how Docomo will position itself in the future.

    F: After phones are unlocked, we expect an increase in the number of people changing carriers because customers will cease being tied to a single carrier and enjoy the use of the handset of their choice on the carrier of their choice. I think customers will support an approach that meets their demands and increases their satisfaction. I think success will come down to the fundamentals of coverage and product quality, as well as the ability to provide reasonably priced service plans that are straightforward and easy to understand.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    CyanogenMod 6 has built-in support for Softbank MMS

    This has been an ongoing issue, and I just realized I have the answer in my hand. JakeJP's Mms.apk has already been merged with 2.2 Froyo based CM-6. This has built-in user agent spoofing allowing people to use MMS with softbank. Of course I cannot confirm that it works, or give more detailed information on setting it up because I don't use softbank.

    Screenshots from 8/10/2010 nightly build of CM-6. Change the user agent to iPhone (3.0)

    If you are running CM-5, replace your current Mms.apk with JakeJP's Eclair version (latest version: Mms.apk.jakeMod11) or upgrade to CM-6, which is currently at release candidate 2 (RC2), which for me was extremely stable. So are the nightly builds, which already include Piaf's extremely cool, tweaked powerstrip widget. Directions for installing CyanogenMod are at the wiki.

    Jake has info for eclair and froyo on his personal site (in Japanese).

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Progress in rooting NAND-protected Android AU IS01/Docomo LYNX SH-10B

    The newest Android handset is from Sharp and includes both a one-seg TV tuner and IR support for sending/receiving contacts, features that have been noticeably absent from the other Android offerings. It also appears to include another, not-so-nice feature: NAND protection similar to what HTC built into the Desire and Evo, making it impossible (at first) to write to the /system partition, even when using the unix command su (switch user) to execute commands with root privilege.

    Fortunately for HTC handset owners, by far and away the largest Android hacking community if focused on HTC devices, so it didn't take long at all for the countermeasures employed by HTC to be circumvented. Unfortunately for owners of the IS01/LYNX SH-10B, it is probably going to take a bit longer for this new Sharp handset.

    Over at is a write up (J) on getting root access. While they successfully obtained a root prompt (#) in the shell, they ran into the following problems:
    • The Superuser Permissions app was unable to use su.
    • It works with busybox but busybox cannot be added to the path.
    • They created a tmpfs to obtain root, so it is not persistent through a reboot.
    I was thinking to post a translation of the directions, but at this point, there is really no need since nothing of use can be done with it, yet.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Docomo announces "Xi" brand for LTE

    From December 2010, Docomo will begin it's Xi LTE service in the area from Tokyo to Osaka (東名阪地域) before expanding to other regions. The speed will be primarily 37.5 Mbps (theoretical downlink) with a bump to 75 Mbps in selected indoor locations. (Either way, that is at least 10 times the speed I get currently.) No details on uplink were announced, and details on handsets and fees will be released when available.

    Xi is pronounced "crossy," which sounds better when pronounced in katakana but still makes me think of German soccer. Docomo has worked in several double meanings. Prepare yourself, it is a tad cheesy.

    The "X" refers to the connecting of people with their stuff and information (人、物、情報のつながり), or, if you prefer, simply to unlimited possibilities (無限の可能性). Feel free to consider the "i" to indicate me, myself, and I, or just innovation. The whole thing together is supposed to mean connection or infinity ∞.

    I, who admittedly possesses few skills with respect to the naming of things, don't care at all what Docomo calls it's LTE service, just as long as it's as fast as expected, has decent coverage to begin with, and coincides with the release of a killer Android handset from HTC.

    B-Mobile likely to release iPhone 4 micro-SIM

    More good stuff from B-Mobile.

    According to the Sankei (see below), B-Mobile is likely to release a micro-SIM aimed at the iPhone 4 (and perhaps a data-only version for the iPad?) by the end of the month.

    I am extremely interested to see if they offer a version for the iPad, since last I checked, no one really has any idea if it is or is not SIM locked. A number of customers signed two year contracts, the only way to get a reasonably-priced data plan, because they were told by Softbank that the Japanese iPad is SIM locked. Imagine the uproar if it is actually not locked. In the US, instant class action lawsuit. In Japan, not so sure.

    Back to the iPhone. Where do you go to get the best deal on an unlocked iPhone 4? Hong Kong. The graph below (compiled and created by choreographics) shows the price of the iPhone in each country that sells them unlocked with no contract required. A 16 GB version can be had for about 500 Euros in Hong Kong.

    (The bolded portion below indicates that a number of customers are unsatisfied with softbank's network and would prefer to use the iPhone on another carrier.)
    iPhone4、ドコモ回線で使用可能に 日本通信が専用SIMカード発売
    2010.8.6 11:53




    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    One day remaining on the name changing poll

    If you haven't voted yet please do. Right now, it is pretty much even between keeping the name and moving to a new domain.