Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NTT Docomo to spend 164 billion yen on network upgrades

That breaks down to 122 billion yen on packet switching infrastructure and 42 billion yen on sp-mode by 2014. Recent network troubles have also caused problems for the six top Docomo execs. Each recently took a pay cut, with CEO Yamada leading the pack at 20% for 3 months.

Sp-mode has been the subject of several embarrassing snafus, where email address were randomly swapped with other users. On January 25, the network pretty much failed in Tokyo. This seems to be partially due to VoIP. In fact, on the 24th, I started getting mails from friends asking me to install Naver's line, but I don't trust them with all those permissions, so I declined.

Fortunately for customers, Docomo does not intend to raise data prices accordingly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Installing Ice Cream Sandwich with root on your AU Xoom (MZ064)

The usual precautions apply. We are not responsible for any damaged devices. This procedure will wipe your data so I recommend you backup anything that is important.

In my previous post on how to get stock Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) installed on your Xoom, I said that root is not really needed. Well less than a few days later, I am eating my words. I found such a reason. In order to pair a PS3 controller over bluetooth with your Xoom you need to have root. I would much rather use bluetooth for that, so it was worth the effort for me.

This process will have 3 steps:
  1. Install CWM Recovery so we can install the update ZIP file.
  2. Install the ICS update ZIP file (already with root).
  3. Install Rogue Recovery v1.3.0 to have a more up-to-date, feature-rich bootloader.
The update does not include a custom kernel, and other than a few bug fixes, is completely stock. One nice feature is that it doesn't overwrite the recovery partition like stock ICS. If you are already running ICS, I recommend reverting to stock before proceeding. See my last post for instructions. (I would do it anyway just to be safe).
  • Download the ICS update with root included here
  • Download CWM Recovery from here (fastboot version)
  • Download Rogue Recovery v1.3.0 from here
  • Put the ICS update and the Rogue Recovery ZIP files onto a micriSD card
  • Place the microSD card in your Xoom
Step 1:
Install CWM Recovery (change "recovery-solarnz-XXXXXX-XXXX.img" to the name of the file you downloaded)

adb reboot bootloader
fastboot flash recovery recovery-solarnz-XXXXXX-XXXX.img
fastboot reboot

Then once your Xoom is booted reboot into recovery

adb reboot recovery

Step 2:
Once in recovery do the following
  • wipe your system cache
  • wipe your Dalvik cache (under advanced)
  • Install the ICS sandwich update that you downloaded to your microSD card
  • Reboot

After installing, if you get an "error 7" when updating the bootloader, don't worry about it. I got the same thing. It doesn't matter because we will be updating to CWM Rogue Recovery v1.3.0 once we are done.

Step 3:
Once again when your Xoom is booted reboot into recovery

adb reboot recovery
  • Install Rogue Recovery v1.3.0 ZIP file from the SDcard.
  • Reboot back to recovery (under the advanced menu option)
  • Do a backup if you are so inclined
  • Reboot and enjoy!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Installing Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3) on your AU Xoom (MZ604)

As with anything the usual precautions apply. We are not responsible if you damage your device. This will wipe all of your data so backup your data if you need it. This process will first install US Xoom WIFI Honeycomb firmware, which will then allow you to get an OTA update to the official Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0.3 update (IML77).

Now that ICS adds the ability to take screenshots (hold volume down + power for 3 seconds), there is less or a reason to have root privilege, especially since it removes the necessary DRM keys for watching rental videos from the Market.
  1. Preparation
    • First, go to the Motorola Developer site and download the image for the US Xoom WIFI MZ604.
    • Extract the ZIP file and place them in the folder containing the Android developer tools.
    • Connect your Xoom to your PC and enable "USB debuging" under settings -> applications -> development -> "USB Debugging"
  2. Unlock your bootloader if you have not done so already:

    adb reboot bootloader
    fastboot oem unlock
    adb reboot bootloader

  3. Flash the US WIFI Xoom firmware:

    fastboot flash boot boot.img
    fastboot flash system system.img
    fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
    fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
    fastboot erase cache
    fastboot erase userdata
    fastboot reboot

  4. Lastly configure your Xoom and then install the series of over the air updates. The very last one should be Ice Cream Sandwich!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Docomo approves Softbank Star7 009z for use without tethering fee

The List of phones that can be used on the Docomo FOMA network without a tethering fee just doubled in size. It now contains two phones.
  • STAR7 SoftBank 009Z
  • SoftBank 008Z
I'd recommend checking out Xi, which allows any phone to be used.

Via juggly.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Docomo handsets and IMEI-based unlock codes

MORE IMPORTANT UPDATE: And the rest of the story apparently goes that this particular shop was disciplined by DCM HQ for giving out unlock codes. Don't expect to receive unlock codes any more. It would appear that DCM's unwillingness to give them out is so that people can't figure out their salt.

This makes sense for other handsets, but not the Galaxy Nexus, since the DCM version doesn't use a unique salt. This is confirmed since online unlock codes work on the SC-04D.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Unlike other Docomo handsets, the Galaxy Nexus SC-04D keeps unlock information in a location that is wiped during 1) factory reset or 2) flashing a new ROM. Therefore, use this fact to argue for being given the actual unlock code, or if you have to factory reset your phone while overseas, it will cease to work with a local SIM card.

It appears that recent Docomo handsets can be unlocked with a simple IMEI-based code. This means that you can purchase a code from a third party site (that you trust) for handsets that use the same salt as the international version *.

In fact, it may be desirable to use a third party because there have been reports of phones not being properly unlocked by Docomo. This is a problem because Docomo reps are instructed not to give out the unlock code. According to Joseph Kurachi Luk on G+, "the reps are trained to tell you that you can't use the code because unlocking requires a 'special SIM card.' But this 'special' SIM is just a non-Docomo SIM."

Recently, a reader was in the US using a T-Mobile SIM with no problems in his Galaxy Nexus. Then one day, the phone suddenly prompted for the unlocked code again, and he had no choice but to purchase an unlock code online, even after paying Docomo for the exact same code.

* Purchase codes at your own risk; I have no confirmation that unlock codes work on Docomo handsets other than the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy S2 is confirmed not to work. Prior to government guidelines prompting carriers to unlock, Docomo made it much more difficult to use aftermarket unlock codes. Docomo's 1.6 firmware for the ht-03a had to be removed before unlock codes could be input. However, for the sake of streamlining and simplicity, I assume that all Docomo handsets are unlockable by IMEI-based code.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Factors affecting the likelihood of a Docomo iPhone

Yesterday, Ishikawa Tsutsumu posted an article, the later portion of which concerns the rumor that NTT Docomo will carry the next revision of Apple's iPhone. The first three quarters of the article can be skipped, unless of course you want to continue beating the dead horse of KDDI's superior network quality and coverage versus SBM's better developed infrastructure supporting the iPhone.

The article picks up the Docomo/Apple thread from the bottom of the third page. Ishikawa (who writes for the Nikkei) disagrees with the Nikkei's previous report that Apple and Docomo had already struck a deal. He thinks it would be more likely for an agreement to be made directly prior to the announcement of an LTE iPhone, which could be in June at the WWDC.

Personally, I don't totally agree that it would happen with so little time prior to launch because each carrier that has deployed an LTE network is using different frequencies. Thus, Apple would need to specifically include a compatible radio. With such scatter, it would be more difficult for Apple to shop around for carriers with one single handset, meaning that agreements might have to be in place sooner than with a 3G handset.

Ishikawa then moves to the real issue that has likely kept the iPhone away from Docomo, the strict requirements that Apple would impose on Docomo regarding advertising, promotion, and sales. He feels that CEO Yamada's criticisms, such as lack of i-mode support, sound like excuses. He indicates that Yamada could strike a deal with Apple if he really wanted to, implying that part of the issue could be Docomo's current CEO.

This makes sense, as it doesn't take an industry insider to imagine how he would have responded to Apple's terms when first approached with the iPhone 3G. Perhaps Yamada is still offended. ;)

Most importantly Ishikawa notes that Yamada's term as CEO will have lasted 4 years by June, which is the traditional length for a CEO at Docomo. If you recall, KDDI was very late to the smartphone game. It wasn't until Tanaka took over as CEO that KDDI got serious about moving away from the galapagos keitai.

In summary, if the new iPhone gets LTE, and if Docomo gets a new CEO, maybe we'll see the iPhone 5 officially offered by Docomo, though there are always other ways of getting an iPhone on Docomo. (And maybe we'll see a better way of bringing email to docomo smartphones that doesn't use IP address to resolve mail address and break down every few days.)