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.)

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