Perhaps Steve Jobs held some grudge against NTT Docomo — it's not difficult to imagine how poorly any hypothetical, initial negotiations concerning the iPhone 3G would have gone and he's known to have been friendly with Softbank founder Masayoshi Son — that has contributed to the lack of a Docomo iPhone, but things are obviously different today.
Softbank is no longer the exclusive Japanese carrier of the iPhone, and Android phones are gaining market share in Japan. The latter is because the Android OS has matured nicely and domestic makers can actually produce a phone that not only doesn't suck, but also manages to more or less integrate the galapagos features without massively breaking anything. (In the beginning smartphones from domestic makers were terrible. Their UIs were crap, their firmware was buggy, and they rarely, if ever, saw an update.)
Now I have a Sony Xperia A, and here's an example of galapagos features that do not suck: HD video taken with a water resistant Docomo SO-04E shoved in the webbing of my vest. (edit, was 1080x1920 video but it was transcoded on upload.)
What has not changed is that Docomo puts junk on their phones, so the big question becomes whether Docomo will be content to offer a phone that lacks all it's crapware. For example, Docomo installs their own contacts app, phone dialer, system UI, and more, which exist in parallel to the standard Android apps, or in this case, the Sony Xperia Skinned apps. Android 4 and higher allows for disabling of preinstalled, system apps, unless they are mission critical, like a dialer or UI. This means the duplicate Docomo apps will always be staring at you - you can't make them just disappear.
To make matters worse, depending on the choices you made when you first set up your phone, or if you accidentally reset certain defaults, you can end up with a situation where you are prompted to choose whether you want to complete that call with "dial" or "phone".
Um… most people are going to be like WTF, I don't know, I just wanna make a phone call. This is most likely to happen after just purchasing the phone, when the user is still unfamiliar with it, adding to the confusing and perhaps causing buyer's remorse. Yeah, this is not happening on the iPhone. So what are the points in favor and against a Docomo iPhone?
- A different Apple CEO
- Docomo operates Band 1 LTE (2100 MHz) so the iPhone is already compatible
- Softbank Mobile is no longer the exclusive Japanese iPhone carrier
- iPhone still massively popular but Android is catching up (meaning it's in Apple's best interest to add Japan's number 1 carrier)
- No way Docomo crapware will be preinstalled
- Docomo unlikely to give extra, special display space for an iPhone
- Docomo unlikely to give discounted data rates only for iPhone contracts
An Addendum. I should point out that the Docomo apps, while annoying, buggy, and generally undesirable, do some things better than the Sony apps, though these issues have long been fixed in the "pure" Android OS (AOSP). The problem seems to partially originate from Google's unwillingness to acknowledge that language and locale are indeed entirely separate. This is an issue for their mobile and desktop products, as anyone who dares to use a different language than that of the location associated with their IP address knows.
And while I'm complaining, after spending years to create a code base that doesn't hose the battery on an Android phone when latitude location reporting is active, and spending what would appear seconds to toss all that code in the trash to move all locations services to the half-baked, "locations" tab of the G+ plus app, which often doesn't even (apparently) know how to use GPS to determine location, is to say the least, annoying. Very much so.
Back to the point at hand, when "language and locale" are not set to Japanese, Sony's contacts app sorts all the Japanese-language contacts under a single "symbol" heading (#). At least it orders them based on the phonetic spelling (furigana), so you can still systematically find people, but looking at the below screenshot will show you just how dumb this is. Of course if the language is set to Japanese, everything is properly organized. This was a problem with Android 1.6 Donut. It shouldn't be an issue now, and Docomo at least gets this right where Sony fails.
|Sony Xperia A contact organization when the system language is Japanese (left) or English (right)|
|The red line denotes the Japanese-language contacts, that are all sorted under "#", because the system language is set to English.|