Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NTT Docomo to partner with handset makers to produce handset chips

I previously heard mumblings that domestic carriers were interesting in implementing "APN locks" in response to the MIC's SIM unlock guidelines. Such a lock would prevent changing the APN to use another carrier's network, even if the phone was unlocked. However, it would likely be at the software level and therefore circumventable by someone properly motivated.

But what if the carrier produced the actual silicon?

Which is just what is going to start happening. NTT Docomo, who pushed hard for SIM unlocking in Japan - only to turn around and effectively bar unlocked handsets from their FOMA (3G) network, is getting into the semiconductor business. Perhaps I'm seeing this from an overly pessimistic point of view, but the last entity I want making my hardware is an old, entrenched company that is under unprecedented pressure to compete in a market that it formerly owned (essentially).

"Communications Platform Planning Corporation" [My translation of 通信プラットフォーム企画 株式会社, not NTT Docomo's] will be a joint venture between five domestic and foreign handset makers, with NTT Docomo being the sole investor to start (¥450 million). The company should be established by mid January 2012. The handset makers are expected to be onboard by the end of fiscal 2011 (March 2012), though exact amounts of their pending investments have not been disclosed.

The company's efforts will focus on efficiency, miniaturization, and LTE, with the resulting silicon incorporated into both domestic and internationally available devices.

Handset partners are:
  • Fujitsu
  • Fujitsu Semiconductor
  • NEC
  • Panasonic Mobile Communications
  • Samsung Electronics
Via Juggly; NTT Docomo Press Release

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Docomo swaps SP Mode Mail address

Update, It seems that this was caused by overloaded servers.

On Tuesday 12/20, a portion of NTT Docomo SP Mode Mail customers had their mail address swapped randomly with other users. This incorrect address was displayed to recipients of mail sent by affected customers. Replies were also directed to the incorrect mail addresses. Thus far, NTT Docomo has received 103 complaints of incorrectly set addresses. The reason for the problem is under investigation.

To verify your address, from mail settings go to other (その他) and then address. If the wrong address is displayed, reboot your phone to restore the proper address.

NTT Docomo has partially suspended SP Mode services in response. See the announcement for the fully list of stopped services, but it is probably a bunch of stuff that no one reading this blog uses anyway.

(I bet when Docomo implemented their carrier mail system 10 years ago, the way they did it probably seemed like a good idea. If you looked at the specification today, you'd probably ask WTF were they thinking.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Important points when switching a Docomo FOMA handset to a Xi contract

I'f you've been following my Google+ page, you'll know that a week ago I switched my FOMA (3G) plan to a Xi (LTE) plan, which includes tethering at no additional cost.


So far, I have not incurred any unexpected data fees. As of yesterday, my online statement indicates no irregularities in my bill, and the campaign rate of ¥4,200 for 7 GB of bandwidth is being properly applied. Nonetheless, I will wait until my December bill arrives before making a post on how to switch over to Xi. If all is OK (and it had better be or my wife is going to kill me and you'll never hear from me again), I'll post a detailed description of what I did to change my FOMA plan to Xi.

In the meantime, here is my reasoning for switching, followed by a list of points to consider.

Motivation for Switching to Xi

For the past 8 months, I've been carrying around two phones, one with a NTT Docomo FOMA SIM for voice, and one with a bmobile FAIR SIM for data. The reason for doing this was the desire to use a better phone than my NTT Docomo ht-03a (HTC Magic). If you recall, I wasted several hours and ¥500 back in April trying to get my unlocked Nexus One working on Docomo's network, only to give up due to the exorbitant fees levied on non-Docomo-branded handsets (in excess of ¥10,000, now reduced to only about ¥8,000, not including basic voice fees, etc.).

The next best thing was using a bmobile FAIR data-only SIM with the N1 and shutting off data completely on the ht-03a. This gave me the best of both worlds, a Docomo family voice plan and a newer/faster/better handset for data with tethering, all at a reasonable price - my total mobile costs were about ¥4,000 each month. However, carrying two phones is less than ideal for a number of obvious reasons.

Now, I can use the N1 for voice, data, and tethering with an Xi contract for no additional costs. I am also not breaking the terms of the contract in any way. The N1 is even properly certified for use in Japan, including the (aftermarket) battery. As a final note, I was very satisfied with the bmobile SIM and would recommend JCI's talkingFAIR or talking 1 GB Flat Rate SIMs to anyone who is otherwise not eligible for a family calling plan.

Points to consider before switching

If you have a relatively new Docomo handset, there is little reason to switch to Xi, and it could get expensive if the phone is subsidized.


This is the flyer I received from the staff at the Docomo shop where I changed my contract. An OCR'd PDF is here. Some of this is obvious, some of it not so, and some of it may be wrong, as I can confirm that the ht-03a does in fact work. *
  • NTT Docomo will not guarantee that the flat rate will be applied, leaving open the possibility of per KB charges at ¥0.41/KB. (This information is not included on the flyer but comes via calls by the staff to the internal help desk.) **
  • FOMA handsets will not support high-speed LTE data or contents exclusively for Xi handsets.
  • Monthly handset subsidies will cease (i.e., 月々サポート), and if either "handset purchase support" (端末購入サポート) or "basic purchase support" (ベーシック購入サポート) is currently applied, a cancellation fee will be assessed.
  • Xi Price plans and data flat rates will be applicable.
  • The following FOMA handsets cannot be used with Xi*: HT-01A, HT-02A, HT-03A, HT1100, M702iS, M2501, M1000, M702iG, NM850iG, NM705i, NM706i, BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9780, BlackBerry Curve 9300.
  • Users of "Mopera U" and "Business Mopera Internet" should manually set the APN to mopera.net (consult the owner's manual for instructions).
  • Users of third party ISPs may experience difficulty connecting to the internet or incur additional fees. Confirm if this is the case with your ISP before contracting Xi service.
  • Users who switch back to FOMA from Xi will be ineligible for the "Value" voice plans unless purchasing a new FOMA handset (which will nearly double the price of the basic fee).
  • A new Xi SIM costs ¥2,100, though it seems I was only charged ¥2,000 ¥2,000 + 5% tax = ¥2,100. (This information is not included on the flyer.)
* I can confirm that my ht-03a works perfectly fine with the Xi SIM. I even showed it to the staff at the shop (who really liked my splash screen, by the way). The staff member was aware of the custom ROM. He commented that perhaps it works but could cause billing issues. However, since my bill is so far normal, this doesn't appear to be the case.

** Technically, I don't see how this could happen unless Docomo specifically makes it happen, or you set some funky APN.

Original Japanese from flyer follows:
FOMA端末を利用しXi契約されるお客様ヘ
FOMA端末を利用しXi契約される場合、以下の点にご注意ください。

くご利用可能なサービスについて〉
FOMA端末では、高速通信や一部の Xi端末向けコンテンツをご利用いただけません。

くFOMAから契約変更する際、 FOMA契約において月々サポート等にご加入中の場合 について〉
  • 月々サポート適用中の場合は、適用が終了いたします。
  • 端末購入サポート適用中の場合は解除料がかかります。
  • ベーシック購入サポート適用中の場合は、解除料がかかります。
く料金プラン・パケット定額サービスについて〉
料金プラン及びパケット定額サービスは、 Xi専用プランとなります。

くご利用いただけない FOMA端末について〉 以下の FOMA端末については、ご利用いただけません。
HT-01A、HT-02A、HT-03A、HT1100、M702iS、M2501、M1000、M702iG、M850iG、NM705i、NM706i、BlackBerry Bold、BlackBerry Bold 9700、BlackBerry Bold 9780、BlackBerry Curve 9300

く iモード・ sp モード以外のインターネット接続サービスの利用について〉
当祉の「moperaU」 又は「ビジネスmoperaインターネット」をご契約の方は、APNを「mopera.net」に手動で設定して下さい。設定方法は各機種の取扱説明書をご覧下さ い。
他社プロパイダをご契約の方は、FOMA 端末で Xiサービスを利用することで、接続できなくなる場合や、接続時聞に応じて別途のプロパイタ利用料が発生する場合がありますので、必ず事前にご契約プロパイダヘご確認下さい。

くその他〉
Xi 契約をされたのちに、FOMA端末の購入を伴わずFOMAサービスヘ契約変更する場合 は、バリュープランをご選択いただけません。

本書の内容は、2011年11 月24 日現在のものです
株式会社 NTTドコモ

Friday, December 16, 2011

NTT Docomo begins competing directly with Japanese MVNOs

Apparently feeling pressure from JCI, the company behind the popular b-mobile and Aeon SIMs, NTT Docomo recently announced a 128 kbps data plan that doesn't cost in excess of ¥5,000. The pricing and data speed put it in direct competition with the 100 kbps Aeon Plan A.

To put this into perspective, Docomo's previous price point for 128/64 kbps (down/up) was an astounding ¥5,985. To compete with JCI, Docomo has had to drop the price of this plan by nearly 600%.

The link to this old plan is likely to die, but here is a writeup.
While Docomo may have conceded on price point, they are still loathe to do away with their 2-year, automatically renewing contracts, which are standard with all Japanese carriers. In addition, Docomo is also including the (bogus) ISP fee on top (waived during the campaign). And, the base price of service is more. The Aeon SIM is the clear winner in this fight.

Aeon Plan A
NTT Docomo
Speed
100 kbps (down and up)
128/64 kbps (down and up)
Price
¥980
¥1,380
Contract
None
2-year, auto renewal
ISP charge
None
¥525 (waived)

If you are wondering why Docomo would even allow JCI to do this, since JCI is in fact using Docomo's FOMA network. The answer is simple. JCI won the right to do so in government arbitration. Before that, all deals were done behind closed doors. Now anyone can become an MVNO using Docomo's FOMA and Xi networks, and the wholesale terms and pricing are set and in the open.

There is one place where Docomo could potentially best JCI. The SIM cards that Docomo provides to MVNOs lack particular components that cause the infamous niggles such as lack of signal bars and 3G icons, which in turn results in excessive battery use by the cell phones radio as it boost power searching for a signal (even though it has a signal). Docomo could provide it's own customer with SIMs that don't cause this problem, but I seriously doubt they will. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

AEON b-mobile SIMs now have voice plans


The postpaid, AEON exclusive b-mobile SIMs now support voice. The terms are the same as the AEON data-only SIMs: residency required and payment via credit card. A 1-year contract is required, but it does not automatically renew. No microSIM are available.

Current users of AEON data-only plans won't be able to continue using the same SIM card.

From the product page, here is a table showing the potential pricing.

Total minimum monthly cost
Voice Plan S Voice Plan M Voice Plan L
1,290円 2,100円 3,675円
Data Plan A 980円 2,270円 3,080円 4,655円
Data Plan B 2,980円 4,270円 5,080円 6,655円
Data Plan C 4,980円 6,270円 7,080円 8,655円

T-Mobile US's most expensive prepaid smartphone plan costs less than Japan's cheapest postpaid plan

On a recent visit to the US, I purchased a T-Mobile prepaid SIM card for use in my Nexus One. The entire process took less than 10 minutes, and I was quite satisfied with the service. I'd certainly use them again in the future.

However, most Japanese phones won't get 3G service because T-Mobile uses UTMS band IV (AWS), which splits uplink and downlink between bands roughly at 1700 and 2100 MHz. In Japan, Docomo and Softbank use 2100 for both, while Emobile uses only 1700. The only other US carrier that would potentially work with Japanese phones is AT&T, but they use 1900 MHz. (Nicholas thought his Galaxy S2 supported this frequency, but he is in the US right now, languishing on 2.5G EDGE.)

Prepaid Plans


Currently, T-Mobile offers both 1) monthly prepaid and 2) daily plans. I only needed service for about two weeks, so the daily plan was the best option. I got unlimited voice and SMS, and 200 MB of data per day for $3/day. Extrapolate over a month, and this would be $90, which is the most expensive way to get a month of service from T-Mobile. This converts to ¥7,200 (~ ¥80 to the dollar), which equates to the bare minimum charged by Japanese carriers. (The only way to pay less in Japan is to not use the phone at all.) The 200 MB would get around 6 GB/month of data, which is comparable to Xi's 7 GB.

To be fair, Japan's urban 3G coverage is excellent. In contrast, while in a major US city, my connection often fell back to EDGE, even though my phone is the T-Mobile version.

Item
Price
SIM card
$10
Refill
$30
Total
$40
Cost for 10 days of service with T-Mobile

There are, of course, some caveats. First off, the SIM card must be purchased for $10, though this is half of what Docomo charges (¥2,100). The SIM card expires after 90 days of inactivity and can't be subsequently refilled. Refills are purchased in $10 increments, which is why I only bought 10 days of service (for $30).

Unlimited* 4G*


In computing, an asterisk * is a wildcard that may stand for any character. To cell phone companies, it is a mathematical operator that changes the sign of the term it follows. For example, plus one (+1) becomes minus one (-1). Night becomes day. 4G becomes 3G, and unlimited becomes limited. This brings me to my only gripe with T-Mobile; their advertising is a disingenuous.

How do they get away with calling a 3G network 4G? There is a strict definition of 4G. Docomo's Xi LTE network is probably the world's fastest, but Docomo doesn't even call it 4G. Because it's not, not until it reaches a theoretical downlink of 100 Mbps. So Docomo calls is 3.9G.

This "4G" term is also used in the fine print on the unlimited* data plans, which is wrong in more ways than one.
First 5GB at up to 4G speed
A plan really isn't unlimited if data is throttled after exceeding a cap, and this statement makes it seem like you'll be reduced from 4G to 3G speed. In reality, 4G speeds don't exist, and after the cap, speeds are reduced to 2.5G EDGE speeds.

But these are really minor gripes, and I guess in the US, this type of advertising in to be expected. With every company doing, those who don't would be at a major disadvantage.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Android indoor maps hit Japan


The new indoor maps are just awesome. Instead of walking to the end of the international terminal at Haneda to see if there was a better place to get a beer, I just checked the phone, turned around, and went to Curacion Cafe, where I am now. The wifi-based location is also quite good - only off by about 20 m, which is not bad for indoors.

Nikkei reports LTE iPhone and iPad coming to NTT Docomo, Docomo denies.

Interesting day. Today, the Nikkei reported that an LTE version of the iPad and iPhone are coming to NTT Docomo next summer and fall, respectively. The article claimed that, according to many involved parties, NTT Docomo CEO Yamada and VP Tujimura were in the US during mid November for direct negotiations with Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook. However Docomo quickly denied this.
ドコモ、来年夏にiPhone参入次世代高速通信規格「LTE」に対応

NTTドコモは米アップルの人気スマートフォン「iPhone」とタブレット端末「iPad」の次世代機を日本国内で販売することで、アップルと基本合意した。ドコモはこの合意に基づき、まず来年夏に高速通信規格「LTE」に対応したiPadを日本市場に投入し、秋までにLTE対応のiPhoneを発売する見通しだ。
Docomo to introduce LTE iPhone next summer

NTT Docomo has forged an agreement with Apple to sell the the next generation of the popular iPhone and iPad. Based on the agreement, NTT Docomo expects to first release an LTE iPad next summer, follwed by an LTE iPhone in Fall.
Docomo released a press release in response. An excerpt follows:
本日、一部報道で、当社がアップル社の「iPhone」及び「iPad」の取り扱いを開始する旨の報道がありましたが、
現時点において、「iPhone」及び「iPad」の取り扱いについて、当社がアップル社と基本合意したという事実はございません。

また、現時点において、「iPhone」及び「iPad」の取り扱いに関し、アップル社と具体的な交渉をしている事実もございません。
Today, it was reported in the press that NTT Docomo will begin carrying the iPhone and iPad. However there is currently no agreement in place with Apple. NTT Docomo are in fact not currently engaged in negotiations.
So, which is true?

If Docomo was actually in negotiations with Apple for iStuff, and if that iStuff was going to be LTE, and if Docomo just leaked that to the world, then it's not hard to imagine that Docomo would no longer be in negotiations with Apple and would never see any iAnything. Forever. And ever. Especially if Steve was still around.

So, Docomo would have no choice but to implement damage control quickly and deny the report.

On the other hand, the Nikkei report could be all BS.

via @10sai and @sveninjapan

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Overseas unlocked iPhone 4S may not be serviceable in Japan

Shukan Ascii confirmed with the Ginza Apple Store that the US, Canadian, New Zealand, and Australian unlocked versions of the iPhone 4S cannot be repaired in Japan due to internal hardware differences. The report also includes the Chinese iPhone 4S, but I didn't even realize that you could buy real iPhones in China (and apparently neither does google's first page of results, which only contains references to fake iPhones).

According to the article, iPhone 4Ss from other countries can be serviced here, though they only confirmed support for the Korean and Hong Kong (traditionally the cheapest source for unlocked iPhones) versions.

There is no mention of what, exactly, is differently, only that HK and SK are part of the same regional product series.

Apple has always been strong on providing world-wide product support. I've purchased Apple computers in both the US and Japan. I've had occasions to take each to an Apple Store for service, and the fact that I was on the wrong side of the planet didn't matter. Contrast this with Sony US, who couldn't even talk to me about my Japanese Vaio. (Sir Howard Stringer cited Apple as an example when he began axing useless Sony crap like Aibo - yes Aibo was useless.)

In my opinion, this removes a large incentive for buying an iPhone (not that I had plans to buy one, but if I did...)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unlocked iPhone using a Docomo Xi LTE SIM card to avoid tethering charges

Update: confirmed at a Docomo shop that a FOMA contract can indeed be converted to a Xi plan, but beware that if you go back to FOMA, you'll pay more for the monthly base fee because the phone is now an "old" phone starting service - it won't be eligible for the "value" plan for "new" phones, only the "basic" plan.
Docomo "Xi" 3.9G LTE microSIM card
A Shukan Ascii article has a detailed description [J] on using an iPhone 4S on Docomo now that Xi micro SIMs are available. Keep in mind that this should work for any phone that supports UMTS-2100, Docomo's primary band.

Previously this was prohibitively expensive because Docomo would automatically levy a tethering charge on all unlocked phones that use 3G "FOMA" service (except the SBM 008Z). However, tethering is ostensibly allowed on Docomo's 3.9G "Xi" LTE because data usage is capped. A non-LTE phone with a Xi SIM card will connect to the FOMA network, so we now have a reasonable option for non-Docomo branded smartphones.

Cost

See here and here for a more detailed explanation.
Compared to AU and SBM, this will be more expensive. With a 2-year contract, the standard voice plan is ¥780, but this includes no talk time. 24 hour free calls to Docomo subscribers costs an additional ¥700. Currently, data is cheap, only ¥4,410, but from 5/1/2012, this will increase to ¥5,985.

Monthly price with 2-year contract
Until 4/30/2012
From 5/1/2012
Voice
¥700
¥700
Data
¥4,410
¥5,985
ISP charge
¥525
¥525
Universal service charge
¥7
¥7
Talk 24 (optional)
¥700
¥700
Total
¥6,432 (5,723)
¥7,998 (7,298)

Data Cap

Currently, exceeding 7GB apparently results in a speed reduction to 128 kbps, though has been a point of confusion. From 10/2012, there will be an option to purchase an additional 2GB for ¥2,625.
なお、Xiデータ通信専用プランについては、お客様により安心してお使いいただけるよう、既存のXiデータプランも含めて、全て、7GBを超える通信は自動で送受信時最大128kbps1 とさせていただき、追加料金不要で引き続きご利用いただけるようにいたします。
2012年10月1日からは、お申し出いただいたお客様については、2GBのご利用ごとに2,625円をお支払いいただくことで、7GBを超えた通信でも、受信時最大75Mbps1 の通信速度でご利用できるようにいたします。
なお、2012年9月30日までは、7GBを超えても速度変更は行わず、追加料金不要とさせていただくため、気軽にご利用いただけます
Source.

Starting Xi Service

Actually getting in and out with the SIM could be a hassle, depending on the quality of the staff you speak to.

First, Docomo does indeed sell ala carte SIM cards for unlocked phones, and it is my understanding that you don't need to actually bring in the phone, which would be a good idea if your phone doesn't display the MIC certification mark. (Unfortunately, some properly certified phones weren't stamped by the manufacturers, like the Nexus One.) Just tell them you are using an unlocked iPhone 4S but don't have it with you. (If you are using an unlocked iPhone 4 or 4S, you can take it in, no problem.)

Next, because Docomo decided to invent names for it's SIM cards, make sure you have your terminology correct. The Xi SIM cards are RED (see image at top) and called ドコモUIMカード AX04 (Docomo UIM Card) for the full size SIM, and ドコモminiUIMカード AX04m for the microSIM.

The staff may be confused as to why you want to use get Xi service when you don't have an LTE phone. Some may even try and tell you that it would be cheaper to get FOMA service. Be firm and patient and insist on Xi. If you're not making any progress, leave, go to another store, and try again. Whatever you do, don't get a WHITE SIM CARD!

Docomo FOMA 3G microSIM card

Thanks to Sven.

The mythical Docomo list of approved non-tethering phones exists!


And it is very, very short, starting and ending with the SoftBank 008Z. The 008Z is the only phone that SBM currently will unlock. As I've been expecting, the only phones that Docomo isn't going to hit with a FOMA tethering fee are going to be limited to handsets unlocked by other domestic carriers.

I ran across this while researching a post (briefly outlined on g+), the gist of which is avoiding FOMA tethering fees by using a Xi SIM.

Searching the Docomo site for SIM cards to see if there is any mention of selling Xi SIMs (there isn't), I noticed the following addition:
ただし、他社携帯電話機がテザリング非対応であることなどを当社で確認できた電話機については、当電話機に当社指定のアクセスポイントを設定いただくことで、設定後のパケット通信に関して、スマートフォン定額通信の定額料・上限額が適用されます。当該電話機については、当社で他社携帯電話機がテザリング非対応であることを確認が取れた時点で、当社ホームページにてお知らせします。現時点での対象は以下のとおりです。
【対象】SoftBank 008Z
製造番号の頭8桁が「35732604」であるもの
This is explaining that handsets which have been confirmed to lack tethering functionality will be charged the standard smartphone rate without a tethering fee. It goes on to further specify that the first 8 digits of the "serial number" must be 35732604. This is interesting. In this case, is serial number referring to IMEI? If so, did Docomo already register the IMEIs of the SBM 008Z phones in its database, thereby allowing connection to the biz houdai APN (which is IMEI restricted)?

EDIT: Actually, I think the Xi SIM cards are what the ドコモUIMカード is referring to.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Look and and a Google + page

I finally got around to updating the old template for this blog. Let me know if anything is out of whack or CSS needs to be changed. I also created a google + page. Once multiple admins are allowed, I'd hope to be able to use it as a starting place for longer discussions. At least that what I'm thinking, but I'm not quite sure exactly how to use g+ pages yet.

For example, it would be a great way to field questions as opposed to email, but I understand that notifications aren't automatic - so I wouldn't immediately know if someone asked something. Anyways, if interested, click the "badge" to see the page (nothing there to see yet, though).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

KDDI steals just under 70,000 subscribers From Docomo in October following iPhone introduction

[Updated with more information from the Nikkei article.]

In September, only 8,700 phone numbers were ported (MNP) to AU from other Japanese carriers. That number grew significantly in October, mainly at the expense of Docomo, who lost 74,000 customers via MNP last month - nearly the exact number AU gained through MNP.

Because of the Nikkei's stupid paywall and broken registration system, I can't read the rest of the article. So I am not 100% sure if these numbers reflect net change, taking into account both incoming and outgoing customers.

Thanks to a little birdy, I confirmed that these are net MNP numbers. The number of customers moving to Softbank decreased in October, but when adding in new contracts, Softbank added the largest number of customers last month.

Docomo is always on the losing end of MNP and likely saw this coming.

Last month they announced a similarly structured Xi (LTE) voice plan as AU and SBM, plus slightly reduced fees for FOMA (3G) data and tethering, the later of which is the main obstacle for using any unlocked handset with Docomo.

Given Docomo's push towards LTE and away from unlimited data plans, I don't expect to see any more changes to the FOMA pricing.

Source.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The reason why the Docomo Galaxy Nexus won't support LTE

A Gigazine article is claiming to have the answer from NTT Docomo as to why their version of the Galaxy Nexus (SC-04D) won't support Xi LTE, and it's all about speed - not download speed, but speed in which it can be brought to market. NTT Docomo declined to say exactly how much longer it would take to field an LTE model, but the impression is that it would be unacceptably long.

My impression is that it is unacceptably long because the iPhone 4S is all over the news (even I wrote a couple of posts about it  ^^; ). The Docomo Galaxy Nexus will go on sale across Japan in November.
「GALAXY NEXUS SC-04D」のLTE搭載を見送った理由ですが、ほぼ世界最速の部類に入るスピードでいち早く発売するために3Gモデルという形になりました。どれくらい時間がかかるのかについて、具体的なことは申し上げられませんが、LTEモデルを提供するには3Gモデルよりも時間がかかります。なお、「GALAXY NEXUS SC-04D」本体にLTEのチップは搭載されておらず、LTEモデルをリリースするかどうかについては現時点では未定です。
NTT Docomo left the door open for a later release of an LTE model but says it is currently undetermined. Now, I'm really wondering if the Docomo Nexus will ship with an unlockable bootloader.

It will support sp mode, sp mail, HSDPA/HSUPA (14/5.7 Mbps), and tethering (with automatic APN switching and a surcharge). It won't have one seg, osaifu keitai, or water proofing (PDF J).

Docomo announcements and rumors: 24 hour free talk, cheaper tethering, Galaxy Nexus

Fairly big news coming out of Docomo, though some of this is still rumor. They're adding a 24 hour free talk plan, dropping the price of tethering, and (apparently) going to be selling the next Nexus phone. Pretty significant stuff. On the down side, the price of tethering is still high, Xi voice plans will be more expensive than the competition, and Xi data caps will be applied within the next year.

Xi LTE Pricing

Xi pricing and plans have been revised far more times than the number of years Docomo has had an LTE network. On the one hand, Docomo says data will be capped, but on the other they say it's unlimited. Don't bother asking at a shop for clarification, as I did just this last weekend because the staff apparently don't know either.

Finally, we have a Docomo web page that clearly and consistently explains the pricing.
Voice
We've been hearing rumbling that Docomo intended to introduce a voice plan to compete with AU and SBM. I guess Docomo was able to ignore the SBM's White Plan until AU offered the same plan for the same price - free calls to from 1 am to 9 pm to subscribers on their networks for ¥980/month.

The base Xi voice plan will now be ¥780 with a 2-year contract, but this will include zero free air time. Without a 2-year contract the price will be ¥1,560. A calls to family members are free with a 2-year contract.

The most interesting part is the "Talk 24" plan. For an additional ¥700 you get free calls to Docomo subscribers 24 hours/day. In the case of a 2-year contract, this totals ¥1,480 and will be a great deal if you call a lot of Docomo folks.
Data
The Campaign price of ¥4,410/month buys unlimited data until 5/1/2012, after which the price increases to ¥5,985. However, from 10/1/2012, Docomo will introduce the 7 GB cap. exceeding it gives two choices: 128 kbps or an additional 2 GB for ¥2,625. There is also a tiered plan, but it such a bad deal, I can't in good conscience link to it.

Docomo Galxay Nexus


Really? A Docomo Nexus? I've always considered the two mutually exclusive. If this is happening, then it must be an LTE handset for Xi. Here's why. [I'll be damned, it' gonna be a FOMA handset. Does this mean it will have a locked bootloader?]

Correct me if I'm wrong (and someone always does), but I was under the impression that part of the philosophy behind the nexus project is to present a pure android device to consumers - a check on the aspirations of carriers who might want to "differentiate" Android too much, and not for the right reasons (from a consumer's point of view).

This philosophy can be summed up in three words: fastboot oem unlock that has three very important implications for any Docomo Nexus handset:
  1. It will tether.
  2. Docomo will charge a premium for 3G data.
  3. So a Docomo-branded version must be LTE.

Reduced FOMA Tethering Charge

SIM unlocking in Japan has been a huge let down because Docomo, who ironically championed the the whole thing, barred unlocked phones from their network by charging an exorbitant price for data: ¥10,395. They've finally come to realize this is way over priced, so they're dropping it down to ¥8,190, which is still way too expensive.

Dropping the Price of FOMA unlimited data

It also appears that Docomo will drop their FOMA data plan price from down under ¥5,000.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nikkei: AU iPhone less laggy, SBM has better mail

Carriers always throw around their mostly meaningless maximum downlink numbers. Realistically, all they are good for is comparing the advertised speeds with what we actually see because No one ever gets 14.4 Mbps downloads, not on NTT Docomo's highly regarded FOMA network, and not with Softbank Mobile.

Personally, I consider anything in excess of 1000 kbps acceptable for a mobile network. Anything higher doesn't provide me with a perceptible increase in performance for what I do with my phone. What does make a difference is latency, the time it takes to actually establish a connection. By far, lower is better. Getting less than 100 ms on a mobile network is great. Less than 200 ms is probably typical. A much higher latency and the phone begins to feel laggy. The take home message is that the speed of a sustained data transfer is irrelevant if the time to actually start the transfer of each and every bit byte and pixel is ridiculously high.

As a baseline, here is a speedtest this morning done on wifi at home with a Nexus One. There is just no way this is going to be beat by a mobile network any time soon. And, unless things have changed recently, no home ISP in North America is going to beat these numbers: latency, 23 ms; DL, 14 Mbps; UL, 4 Mbps.


Yesterday, Ishikawa Tsutsumu put up another article in the Nikkei, this time doing a direct comparison of the iPhone 4S on AU and SBM. He does 10 separate tests at five locations around Tokyo and reports the average result. He concludes, unsurprisingly, that the phone just feels snappier with AU. The main reason wasn't so much a difference in throughput but in latency, which was five times higer with SBM (584 ms versus 106 ms on average).

However, referring to the graph on the first page of his article, the raw numbers weren't really that bad for SBM, at least outside of Shinjuku, where the world's busiest station routinely brings Softbank's network to its knees. But, rather than just steal a graphic from the Nikkei, let's consider Ishikawa's numbers in the context of each carrier's advertising.

Downlink

At best, in a residential area of Tokyo, SBM delivered a 2700 kbps download speed, which is less than 20% of the advertised 14.4 Mbps. At the same location, AU clocked in at only 1300 kbps. However, this is 40% of AU's theoretical 3.1 Mbps maximum, which is actually quite good. Furthermore, at Shinjuku station, where the SBM iPhone averaged a usable but frustratingly slow 200 kbps, AU provided about 1350 kbps.

Uplink

Neither AU nor SBM brag about their uplink speeds because, as far as I can tell, they are just standard 3G speeds under 400 kbps. Docomo and Emobile support 5.7 Mbps uplink, but don't expect anything remotely close to this in real life. The fact that Docomo depicts their Kanto hi-speed uplink coverage area not as a map, but as a list of areas, tells us all we need to know - that high-speed uplink base stations are scattered few and far between in a sea of 384 kbps uploads.

Getting back to the AU and SBM iPhones comparison, it is much more favorable in this department. Assuming a theoretical maximum of 384 kbps, SBM performs better than AU, delivering on average 35% of the advertised speed. AU is at 25%.

B-Mobile FAIR SIM in a Nexus One

Finally, here's what I got this morning (just one test) at home in mid-Tokyo. This is typical for me. The FAIR provides completely unrestricted access to Docomo's FOMA network. 172 ms, 2470 kbps DL, and 362 kbps UL.

The rest of the article

Mail
Basically, if you can't live without emoji, you'll need softbank until AU's mail system catches up. the @ezweb.ne.jp mail address can be used but it will be an imap system that gets checked every 15 minutes, instead of being pushed to the phone instantly.
Voice Calls
While out for the Super GT, he tried making calls from a rural, mountainous area in Tochigi. He placed twenty consecutive calls with each phone. After each call, he'd try and keep connected for 60 seconds. He had no problems with AU. SBM was horrible. It would take 50 seconds or so to connect, the phone would suddenly display "out of area," and he only succeeded in sustaining a call half of the time.

While driving between Ibaraki and Tochigi, he did the same and had much better performance from the SBM iPhone, though still not as good as with AU.

Of course he tried to used data during a voice call with the AU iPhone, which isn't possible with AU network.

Friday, October 14, 2011

iPhone 4S minimum monthly cost comparison in Japan

This previous post was made based on press releases. After editing, it accurately describes the discounts being offered by each carrier (as far as I can tell). Now that we have more complete information, here are better comparisons of the monthly costs. Softbank is the cheapest.

The main technical differences are due to the different network technology used by AU and Softbank. AU's CDMA-2000 network does not allow for simultaneous voice and data transmissions, while Softbank's W-CDMA network does. The iPhone 4 is capable of 14.4 Mbps, but only with W-CDMA; on AU, it will be limited to 3.1 Mbps. However, early tests indicate that the iPhone 4S is only getting on average about 1.5 Mbps with Softbank service. No reports of real word speeds yet with AU, but AU does have better rural and underground coverage.

Here are the minimum monthly costs quoted by each carrier. You may get a slightly different price quoted to you in a shop due to additional fees like insurance, etc. These tables reflect the prices if you paid zero yen up front for the handset.

AU Minimum Monthly Cost

New Contract
Existing Customer
16 GB
32 GB
64 Gb
16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
Unlimited data
¥4,980
ISP charge
¥315
Basic voice plan
¥980
Monthly phone cost
¥0
¥430
¥860
¥390
¥820
¥1,250
Minimum Monthly Total
¥6,275
¥6,705
¥7,135
¥6,665
¥7.095
¥7,525
After 24 months, AU's data price will increase to ¥5,460 (Source).

Softbank Minimum Monthly Cost

As far as I can tell, SBM is applying the same discounts to existing customers, which is unusual because typically existing customers don't get as good a deal. However, this is understandable given their position of now having competition for the iPhone.

Flat Rate Data
Tiered Data
16 GB
32 GB
64 Gb
16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
Unlimited data
¥4,410
¥1,029 - ¥4,410
ISP charge
¥315
Basic voice plan
¥980
Monthly phone cost
¥0
¥480
¥880
¥480
¥960
¥1360
Minimum Monthly Total
¥5,705
¥6,185
¥6,585
¥6,185
¥6,665
¥7,065

Note that the there is a lower subsidy on the tiered plans, which are notoriously bad deals in Japan. The fine print says that you cannot change between a tiered and unlimited plan, so by all means, get the unlimited plan.

SBM is going out of there way to hide the details of the tiered plan. I had to dig for and finally found this PDF, from which I figured out that price is ¥0.084/packet (128 bytes). So the minimum charge of ¥1,029 only buys 1.5 MB. Full price is reached in less than 10 MB. I assume that the iPhone's ¥4,410 tiered plan is buying ¥5,985 worth of packets, or 8.7 MB. If not, you'll top out at only 6.4 MB.

Either way, this is easily done in one single day.

Discount Comparison

Au wins in this category if you are coming from another carrier, but Softbank is giving incentive to stay to existing customers. SBM's "norikae" (switch carriers) discount can be extended for 5 months by spending over ¥10,000 for several months, but I can't see how this would save you money. This discount waves the ¥980 fee for 7 months (3 more if changing with someone else).

AU
SBM
New Customers
¥0
¥0
New Customers
from other carrier
¥0
¥6,860
New Customers
from other carrier
who port number
¥10,000
¥6,860
New Customers
from other carrier
who bring a friend
¥10,000
¥9,800
Existing Customers
-¥390
¥0
Existing 3G/3GS
customers
-¥390
¥6,000 or
waive remaining
installments
NOTE: negative numbers indicate money paid to AU, positive number are discounts. AU only gives a discount if you port a number from another carrier.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting the Most out of your Battery on an Android device

Editors note: this is geared towards the Galaxy S2, but has a good information for other handsets as well.

A lot of this will vary on a case by case basis depending on how you use your phone and what you have installed, so if you have any tips let me know and I will add it to the list.

If I am using my phone heavily, I don't mid that the battery life is not great but when my phone is just sitting there on its own, and the battery drains very quickly, it can be very frustrating.

Here are my current battery stats for your reference. I was able to turn a 12 hour phone with medium usage to an all day phone with the same usage. I have a custom kernel loaded that will allow me to under clock to 100MHz when my phone is sleeping by using Set CPU then it will scale up to a max of 1 GHz depending on what I am doing. This significantly helps the battery life.

When my phone is not sleeping it is usually using only 100MHz. I listen to a lot of books and music when I am riding the train or walking so most of the time it is only using 100MHz.

Even on heavy usage days I have been able to get a full days worth of use which is pretty amazing compared to what I was getting before.

The key to tracking down what is eating your Android phones battery like a ravenous battery sucking vampire Is CPU Spy and Betterbatterystats. You will want to look at "partial wake locks" and see what is keeping your phone from going into "deep sleep". Also under "other" compare that with "screen on" and "awake".

Here is the website for betterbatterystats where more info can be found but the image bellow gives you a general idea of the process.


If left alone my phone would have a "screen on" time of just a few min but an "awake" time of basically however long it has been since my last charge so my phone was never going into a "deep sleep". In the morning After 15 min my phone would have already lost about 5%. This is definitely not normal, and may not affect all of you.


By examining all of my running processes and ripping out all of the Samsung and Docomo included bloatware I have successfully been able to get my phone to go into "deep sleep" and was surprised to find that after letting it sit for an hour I still had 100% battery!!

Here are some helpful apps for tracking down your battery usage:
Also it is worth noting that in the newer phones it is not really important to use task managers. They have enough RAM that it is not really an issue. What is an issue is identifying what is always running and preventing your phone from sleeping or that keeps using your data connection. Go through the list of running apps and Google any running services and if you don't need them, use the paid version of Titanium Backup to freeze them.

Check under applications and running services to see what is always running and remove the offending applications.

I Froze these processes and it made a significant impact on battery performance
  • DRM Content
  • DRM Content Launcher
  • DRM Protected Storage
  • Fota Client
  • SyncmIDS
If you are using a SC-02C and don't care about all of the Samsung apps remove them. Download gscript and run this script to delete them. Make sure you check the box that it requires root access. Removing these will effect your ability to get OTA updates to if you are using a stock ROM it is better to freeze them rather than remove them. I am using a custom ROM so I don't care about OTA updates.

mount -o rw,remount -t yaffs2, /dev/block/mtdblock /system
rm /system/app/BuddiesNow.apk
rm /system/app/BuddiesNow.odex
rm /system/app/Days.apk
rm /system/app/Days.odex
rm /system/app/DigitalClock.apk
rm /system/app/DigitalClock.odex
rm /system/app/DualClock.apk
rm /system/app/DualClock.odex
rm /system/app/EmailWidget.apk
rm /system/app/EmailWidget.odex
rm /system/app/FactoryTest.apk
rm /system/app/FactoryTest.odex
rm /system/app/FTM.apk
rm /system/app/FTM.odex
rm /system/app/FTS.apk
rm /system/app/FTS.odex
rm /system/app/GameHub.apk
rm /system/app/kieswifi.apk
rm /system/app/kieswifi.odex
rm /system/app/Kobo.apk
rm /system/app/MiniDiary.apk
rm /system/app/MiniDiary.odex
rm /system/app/ReadersHub.apk
rm /system/app/ReadersHub.odex
rm /system/app/SamsungIM.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_News.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_News.odex
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_ProgramMonitor.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_ProgramMonitor.odex
rm /system/app/SnsAccountFb.apk
rm /system/app/SnsAccountFb.odex
rm /system/app/SnsAccountLi.apk
rm /system/app/SnsAccountLi.odex
rm /system/app/SnsAccountMs.apk
rm /system/app/SnsAccountMs.odex
rm /system/app/SnsAccountTw.apk
rm /system/app/SnsAccountTw.odex
rm /system/app/SnsDisclaimer.apk
rm /system/app/SnsDisclaimer.odex
rm /system/app/SnsImageCache.apk
rm /system/app/SnsImageCache.odex
rm /system/app/SnsProvider.apk
rm /system/app/SnsProvider.odex
rm /system/app/SocialHub.apk
rm /system/app/SocialHub.odex
rm /system/app/TwCalendarAppWidget.apk
rm /system/app/TwCalendarAppWidget.odex
rm /system/app/AnalogClock.apk
rm /system/app/AnalogClock.odex
rm /system/app/ChocoEUKor.apk
rm /system/app/Dlna.apk
rm /system/app/Dlna.odex
rm /system/app/HelvNeueLT.apk
rm /system/app/KiesAir.apk
rm /system/app/Microbesgl.apk
rm /system/app/Microbesgl.odex
rm /system/app/MusicHub_U1.apk
rm /system/app/PanningTryActually.apk
rm /system/app/PanningTryActually.odex
rm /system/app/PostIt.apk
rm /system/app/PostIt.odex
rm /system/app/PressReader.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_StockClock.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_StockClock.odex
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_WeatherClock.apk
rm /system/app/SamsungWidget_WeatherClock.odex
rm /system/app/SecretWallpaper1.apk
rm /system/app/SecretWallpaper1.odex
rm /system/app/SecretWallpaper2.apk
rm /system/app/SecretWallpaper2.odex
rm /system/app/SpeechRecorder.apk
rm /system/app/SpeechRecorder.odex
rm /system/app/Tasks.apk
rm /system/app/Tasks.odex
rm /system/app/wssyncmlnps.apk
rm /system/app/wssyncmlnps.odex
rm /system/app/Zinio.apk
rm /system/app/FactoryTest.apk
rm /system/app/FactoryTest.odex
rm /system/app/HTMLViewer.apk
rm /system/app/HTMLViewer.odex
rm /system/app/lcdtest.apk
rm /system/app/lcdtest.odex
rm /system/app/MobileTrackerEngineTwo.apk
rm /system/app/MobileTrackerEngineTwo.odex
rm /system/app/Protips.apk
rm /system/app/Protips.odex
rm /system/app/ReadersHub.apk
rm /system/app/ReadersHub.odex
rm /system/app/SevenEngine.apk
rm /system/app/signin.apk
rm /system/app/signin.odex
rm /system/app/VoiceToGo.apk
rm /system/app/syncmldm.apk
rm /system/app/syncmldm.odex
reboot

Here are some general best practices for saving your battery. After getting your phone to a point where it has acceptable battery life, then you can take a backup and slowly add back some of these functions, such as Latitude or GTalk, and see how your battery life is effected.
  • Disable latitude in Google Maps
  • Disable auto sign in for GoogleTalk
  • Turn off any unnecessary syncing
  • Set your screen brightness to its lowest settings
  • Turn off WIFI when you are not using it - constantly scanning for wireless networks will drain your battery and keep your phone from going into deep sleep for as long as it can. But if you have WIFI available use it as it uses less power than the phones data connection.
  • GPS - This is debatable, even with GPS "disabled" it is still on so there are no power savings to be had by disabling it. You are only disabling applications from using it so if your are conscious of what is using your GPS then you can leave it on. When you see the notification in your task bar, it is in use. Any other time it is powered on just not in use.
  • Disable auto screen rotation - when you don't need it always have auto screen rotation disabled.
  • Use a black background rather than a live wallpaper. OMLED screens turn off the black pixels and since OMLED screens use a lot of power this can make a lot of difference. Here is my background.
This is the actual image being used for the wall paper, pure black.

Early tests indicate no difference in downlink speed between Softbank iPhone 4 and 4S

Ishikawa Tutsumu (石川 温) of the nikkei shinbun has an article up where he was able to test an iPhone 4S. He did 30 speed tests in Shinjuku, and had no significant difference in speed. The 4S got an average of 1.39 Mbps, while the 4 averaged 1.26 Mbps.  These two results are statistically indistinguishable, and there were of course cases when the iPhone 4 clocked faster results. He didn't specify the uplink speeds, but an image he uploaded shows about 150 kbps.

This is because, even though the iPhone 4S supports 14.4 Mbps, where the iPhone 4 is limited to 7.2 Mbps, the network is the bottleneck. This should come as no surprise, since no one reports getting anywhere near the theoretical maximum speeds on ANY Network in Japan. Put an iPhone 4 and 4S on Docomo's FOMA network and I bet there will be on average no difference in downlink speed.

SBM can push the angle that the iPhone 4S will be faster on their network than on AU's, but in real life, the opposite could very well be true, especially in underground and mountainous areas. Mr. Ishikawa was unable to test an AU iPhone 4S.

Tips on using Windows in a virtual machine for upgrading Docomo Xperia X10 SO-01B

After a long frustrating experience, I've finally fully upgraded my Docomo-branded Xperia X10 (which as been officially abandoned to Eclair). For now it's is running Wolf's Gingerbread ROM. The reason this took so long is partially because I am most experienced with unix-like operating systems and HTC phones, so I lack experience with Windows and Sony Ericsson - each of which do things very differently from what I consider "normal" and "efficient".

(I mean, USB drivers? Come on, that's so last century. And finding these drivers can be a real pain because links to files on SE's website die and respawn faster than me playing Halo against a bunch of 15 year olds.)

Lack of documentation surrounding Flashtool, which is needed to flash new kernels and radios, also caused me some issues. And running XP in Virtual Box added an extra layer of complications and uncertainty - when something doesn't work, is it a bug in the software, a problem with windows, or an issue with the VM?

Here are some bullet points of what I learned along the way, some of it obvious, some of it less so. Had I waded through the 100s of replies in the main threads, I probably could have found this information, though it probably would have taken longer. (But then I'd have to subject myself to children posting just to say first, without even understanding the post, not to mention other children complaining that they never get to be First!)
  • Adding commands to the windows path is retarded.
    • Right and left click a bunch of times until you get to the place where you can set environmental variables and type this into the itty bitty text box to get ddms and adb added to the path: %SystemRoot%\system32;%SystemRoot%;%SystemRoot%\System32\Wbem;"C:\Program Files\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools";"C:\Program Files\Android\android-sdk\tools"
    • (Actually, you'll spackle everything on from Wbem;)
  • Kernels and basebands (radio) can only be flashed with flashtool.
  • Once upgraded to the Gingerbread kernel and baseband, you don't need flashtool to flash new ROMs because everything else can be done though recovery.
  • Setting up a developer environment on the guest machine is not enough to fully use flashtool. Installing the SE USB drivers here are enough for:
    • Full adb and ddms functionality
    • Partial flashtool functionality (anything that doesn't require the phone being in flash mode, such as rooting and "optimize" - DON'T CLICK OPTIMIZE.) 
  • Flashtool contains the drivers necessary for flash mode.
    • There is no documentation regarding this or mention of it on the main two posts.
    • After installing flashtool, check the drivers folder and run gordon gate setup. 
  • SE Phones show up as different hardware to Windows when booted normally and booted into flash mode, and each state requires different drivers and USB filters
    • You can either create specific filters to pass the phone though the host to the guest OS for each state, e.g. (The below two USB devices are both the same phone):
      • SEMC HSUSB Device [0224]
      • Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB SEMC USB Flash [0100]
    • Or create a catch-all, generic USB filter that will capture everything plugged into a USB port (New Filter 1).

Monday, October 10, 2011

AU appears to win iPhone comparison contest

EDIT4: Added more on the "norikae" discount from SBM


EDIT3: Cleaned up mistakes throughout and added some new information.

EDIT2: @w00kie has a good post describing the "deal" on the iPad: It will cost a total of ¥44,640 (¥1,860/month) over the 24 month contract for the 16 GB version. He also has a link to SBM's price calculator.

EDIT: I copied the total handset costs directly from the parentheses, which neglected to take into account the ¥1,920 discount per month. Fixed that. Handset prices are almost identical. AU is a bit cheaper. If you get the cash back offer from AU, then their price is half SBMs if (and only if) the timing of your SBM 2 year contract is up during AU's campaign.



For those intending to purchase an iPhone 4S, it appears right now that there will be almost no compelling reason to remain with Softbank. Even if you are stuck in the middle of a 2-year SBM contract, AU will essentially pay your early termination fee if you port your mobile number. Note that it may be cheaper to not cancel, but instead shut off your SBM iPhone and pay the minimum every month until you are eligible for free cancellation.

The only reason not to move to AU would be if you call lots of SBM phones and it is impractical for those people to also move to AU. (If you still owe a considerable subsidy on an iPhone 4, you have no business updating to the iPhone 4S, and if you can't shoulder the upfront costs in cash of an AU handset, then you need to rethink your priorities.)

Hardware

Normally this would be a huge point in favor of SBM for the foreign community because AU is a CDMA-2000 carrier. SBM's WCDMA phones are certainly SIM locked but this can be circumvented and the handset could be taken abroad and used after leaving Japan.

Because the iPhone 4S is a "world phone" that supports both standards, for the first time ever an AU phone is available that can be used abroad (theoretically) without roaming.  An AU iPhone will be locked - at the level of AU's subsidy, it's a virtual certainty, but this can most likely be fixed by jailbreaking. It would be best to wait and confirm this before buying, though.

Network

Without actual reports of how the iPhone 4S performs on AU's network, any network comparison is just speculation. I was discussing this with Gen Kanai, and we think the real world difference will be imperceptible to the average user.

First off, it is unclear if the AU released a faq that indicates the iPhone 4S on AU's CDMA-2000 network will not support simultaneous voice and 3G data connections (voice and wifi is OK), which is a point in favor of SBM.

Next, while SBM's network has a significantly higher theoretical maximum downlink than AU, it is also anecdotally more congested. Early tests of the 4S on SBM's network indicate no change increase in speed, and the average speed was about one third of AU's theoretical maximum. I am waiting on some Android AU users to report back their speeds they get for comparison.

Finally, AU (like Docomo) enjoys an 800 MHz allocationwhich has much better penetration in underground and mountainous areas. If you are in a fringe area of the SBM's network, you will definitely see better performance with AU because the MIC has inexplicably refused to allow SBM equal access to the available spectrum.

One more thing: Apple has little experience with CDMA basebands, and we all saw how their first GSM revisions had a lot of issues with dropped calls. Perhaps Apple's initial CDMA offerings won't be up to par. Perhaps it will.

Cost

AU's upfront costs are so low, at most ¥20,640 (and likely half that) for the 64 GB model, that the apparent lack of a monthly payment plan is irrelevant. The difference in service charges is negligible - AU data will cost about ¥500 more than SBM, and voice charges provide equivalent service for the same price. (Though this will add up to ¥12,000 difference over the two years contract).

AU's subsidy is more than 3 times slightly more than SBM's. Add in the monthly cost of a handset and there is no difference in monthly cost between the two Japanese iPhone carriers. This is before ¥10,000 cash back from AU. Here is the total cost hardware costs compared between AU and SBM. There really is no comparison. [UPDATE: Yeah there is - the prices are almost the same. I forgot to subtract the ¥1,920 monthly discount (I just copied and pasted the amounts listed here, which is the amount SBM charges up front for an iPhone before doling out the discount each month.) The 32 and 64 GB models cost ¥480 and ¥880 per month from SBM.]

UPDATED TABLE
AU
SBM
iPhone 4S 16 GB
¥0
¥0
iPhone 4S 32 GB
¥10,320
¥11,520
iPhone 4S 64 GB
¥20,640
¥21,120

If The timing is right and you are right at the month when you can cancel Softbank without a termination fee due to the 24-month automatically renewing contract, and you port a SBM phone number to AU, subtract ¥10,000 from the AU prices.

Softbank Campaigns

Even considering SBM's recently announced plans, it's hard to justify staying with them based on the currently available information.
This That and the Other plan
This adds data for an iPad. There is no universal service charge, no contract fee, and the first 100 MB of data are absolutely free. After 100 MB, the price scales by ¥0.0525 per packet to a maximum of ¥4,980. The only extra charge is the (bogus) ¥315 ISP fee (that every carrier adds in to their data prices), which is added only after exceeding 100 MB.

This plan requires buying a new iPad. It's a good deal if you plan to spend a lot of money each month and want both a 3G iPad and an iPhone. Otherwise it is not compelling. Based on this price calculator, here are the costs of the iPad in total or over the 2 years:

NEW TABLE
Total
Monthly
iPad 2 16 GB
¥44,640
¥1,860/mo
iPad 2 32 GB
¥52,800
¥2,200
iPad 2 64 GB
¥60,720
¥2,530
Free iPhone update plan
This gives current iPhone 3G and 3GS users a route to upgrade to the latest and greatest for no additional cost. They'll just continue paying the remaining monthly cost of their current handset, plus that of the new one.

I was confused on this part as pointed out below in the comments. SBM will give ¥6,000 cash back to customers who have fully paid or their iPhone. This can be all at once or subtracted from their bill over the next 6 months. For anyone who hasn't paid off their iPhone, SBM will give you subtract the exact monthly amount you owe from your bill, each month until the old iPhone is paid off.

Considering that the effective cost of an AU 32 GB model is a one-time ¥320 payment, this plan is also not compelling, unless you recently purchased an iPhone 3GS and would owe a ton of cash if canceling softbank
Quit other carrier discount
SBM will waive the basic voice fee (¥980) for 7 months for customers who leave another domestic carrier. (You can also get gift coupons, etc., and it doesn't appear necessary to port over your number.) This can be extended by an additional 5 months if your average cost of service (excluding tax) exceeds ¥10,000 during the third to fifth months after changing to SBM. At least that is what I think this says.
加入後3~5ヵ月目のお支払い額が平均1万円(税抜)以上の場合、ホワイトプラン基本使用料5ヵ月無料をプレゼント
This will give you an additional ¥4,900 total discount. However, if you are paying the minimum monthly amount of ¥5,705, you'll easily spend more money than you save. An additional 3 month, for 15 in total can be had by bringing a friend or family member with you to SBM.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pricing and plans for AU iPhone take aim at Softbank

UPDATE: I originally left of the "free to AU phones" in the table for voice charges.

AU is aggressively pursuing new customers with it's iPhone 4S, which goes on sale from 10/14/2011. First, the 16 GB model is available fully subsidized (zero yen). Next, AU is also offering ¥10,000 "cash back" for customers who switch their phone number from another carrier (MNP).

I've read this release (PDF) several times now, and it seems this is in addition to the advertised iPhone prices, so the 32 GB model would cost ¥320 after the rebate. To be eligible you must:
  • Start a new contract for an iPhone 4S with a number ported from another carrier between 10/14/2011 and 1/31/2012
  • Apply for IS NET
  • Apply for the iPhone start campaign (2 year contract)
It's hard to imagine that Docomo would take much of a hit from this, given that the iPhone has been available for several years now and the majority of those who would have switched carriers probably did already.

For those wanting to jump to AU for a better network, it would be wise to look into how the availability of a CDMA iPhone on US Verizon's network revealed that AT&T's network, though much maligned, really wasn't that bad. Also keep in mind that Softbank's theoretical maximum downlink is about 4 times faster than AU's. How this adds up in to a real world speed difference between the two carriers depends not only on network congestion but also on Apple's experience with CDMA basebands (or lack thereof) and how closely they are working with KDDI (if at all) for optimization.

The iPhone Start Campaign discounts the data price from ¥5,460 to ¥4,980 for two years. After two years, the discount will cease. There are two plans available, the "Plan Z Simple" and the "Plan F (IS) Simple". Here are the differences between the two

Plan Z Simple
Plan F (IS) Simple
Monthly base charge
¥980
¥780
Voice charge
Free to AU phones (1am - 9pm)
¥21/30s
family free
¥21/30
SMS (send)
Free to AU phones
¥3.15
¥3.15
Unlimited data
¥4,980
¥4,980
Phone price (16 GB)
¥0
¥0
32 GB
¥10,320
¥10,320
64 GB
¥20,640
¥20,640

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

I don't know what to say so here are some random thoughts.

My second computer was the Apple IIe.

When I first saw a Macintosh, I didn't understand how to use it.

Scrapping the proprietary "classic Mac OS" kernel for a BSD/mach hybrid was pure genius.

I roll my eyes at people who say Apple takes from the open source and gives nothing back.

I've done the same to people who always said that Aqua was nothing but eye candy.

I now rely heavily on Mac OS in my job and personal life.

I don't see that changing in the new future.

99% of this is the work of one man.




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

AU iPhone will not work with other CDMA carriers

[Clarification: Roaming will of course be possible on e.g., US Verizon's network. Contracting service on Verizon with an AU iPhone is extremely unlikely. And added a better explanation of RUIM cards in AU handsets.]

I thought I'd preemptively head off any questions ;-)

AU handsets do have a SIM-like "IC card" (RUIM), and it does in fact look exactly like a SIM card. However it does not serve the exact same purpose in the case of an AU handset. When KDDI presented arguments against SIM unlocking, they pointed out that simply switching the RUIM card between two handsets would not allow two AU customers to swap phones. This is because AU CDMA-2000 handsets are internally registered to both the network and the subscriber.

Unless something drastically changes, an AU iPhone will not be usable with US Verizon or Sprint, nor will the reverse be possible. (Roaming will be possible.) Also a softbank iPhone will not be usable on AU. Technically it is of course possible, but good luck getting AU to register it to their network.

In addition, the radio of the US version supports CDMA EV-DO Rev. A 800, 1900 MHz, while the Japanese version has 800 and 2100 MHz, the frequencies AU uses.

Quoting Apple's tech specs page in English.
CDMA available only if iPhone 4S is sold and activated for use on a CDMA network.
And Japanese
CDMAは、iPhone 4SをCDMAネットワークで使用する目的で購入およびアクティベートした場合にのみご利用いただけます。
So, now that we got that out of the way, the more important question is: Will there be a region-specific SIM lock on an AU iPhone to prevent you from taking it to a domestic WCDMA carrier or MVNO like softbank or bmobile? Remember the debacle surrounding the original Japanese iPad? (Honestly, I never figured out WTF was going on with the original iPad baseband and I didn't care enough to exert the effort to dig through all the smoke and mirrors, of which there was a lot.)

AU iPhone will not work with other carriers

Whoops. After publishing that I realized I forgot to include the important four letter in the title, C D M and A.

This is not the post you are looking for. This is the post you are looking for. (Content is the same.)
http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2011/10/au-iphone-will-not-work-with-other-cdma.html

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Docomo exhibits 4 Android LTE smartphones at Createc

Vis ascii.jp, here are the photos of Docomo's four upcoming Xi smartphones. from Samsung, NEC, LG, and Fujitsu. Details are scattered and scarce. I'm assuming the Samsung is the Galaxy S2 LTE.

Samsung
NEC
LG
Fujitsu