As reported many times, the lack of emojis is one reason for a kinda slow iPhone intrusion into the japanese market.

Someone clever created a little nifty gateway to allow for such a send on the japanese carrier networks.

Just point your iPhone to https://www.utilz.jp/x2/mail.jsp

The trick -and a potentially dangerous one- ? You need a Gmail account and the site wants both your userID and password.

As it’s a send-only tool, this won’t resolve the fact that the iPhone is unable to receive such emoji, transcoding them instead into strange ASCII characters.

For those who don’t speak a word of Japanese, Jared on theiphoneinjapan.com forums offers this translation:

送信先メールアドレス recipient address
件名 subject
本文 body
クリックで編集 click to edit
アカウント account
パスワード password

Have tons of fun and comment if you decide to try it.

[Original source: http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/ryoji02260209/56693673.html]

[UPDATE: possible introduction of official emoji with next firmware update: read more]

While it seems the Japanese don’t really use RSS as their main source of information gathering, RSS is still my #1 choice, replacing oh-so many bookmarks and webapps on my iPhone.

I am not willing to let my Google Reader go, as I use it to share news (like I do on the right columnof this blog, even if this RSS was reformatted with Yahoo! Pipes to filter iPhone-only news) and find it the fastest and more convenient use on my Mac.

Using GReader on the iPhone is a snap, and can be done through Safari (the Google App [US iTunes Store link] has a dedicated direct link). However, as many of you riding the train & subway know, cell reception is not always on and leads to some frustrations and “when is the next station”-type of lingering questions.

Here comes Byline [iTunes Store link], by Phantom Fish [link].

This application is just fantastic. Not only it looks like it was done by the Apple bunch, but it’s a snap to use. It pre-fetches and caches your GReader feeds, allowing you to read while on transit, marking items as starred or shared and allowing you to note them, even offline as the app will sync your actions when it online again.

The major drawback is that it cannot filter your feeds yet, meaning you have to read them all in a anti-chronological order, not allowing you to specify one single feed to read. Developpers are looking into that for a future update, though.

Now, I just wish they’d add an email feed-link option and all would be perfect.

I was my very first purchase on the iTunes store, as I’d rather use free apps, but the JPY 1,200 I shelled out were very well spent.

Not convinced yet ? Check their video.

All Softbank iPhone 3G subscribers should have received the warning by SMS, but here it is again. It seems the iPhone USB compact power adapter is faulty, for the metal plugs can get off and stay stuck in the electrical socket.

Therefore, all users are requested to exchange their adapter starting October 10, either by going to an Apple Store or via the web [link].

Apple advises to charge the iPhone up via your Mac/PC in the meantime.

Today Apple announced the Apple Ultracompact USB Power Adapter Exchange program.

Apple has determined that under certain conditions the new ultracompact Apple USB power adapter’s metal prongs can break off and remain in a power outlet, creating a risk of electric shock.  We have received reports of detached blades involving a very small percentage of the adapters sold, but no injuries have been reported.

The ultracompact USB power adapters were supplied with every iPhone 3G sold in the following countries, and may also have been purchased separately as an accessory:

(…)

Japan

Apple – Support – Apple Ultracompact USB Power Adapter Exchange Program.

Sotfbank is looking to attract the business crowd into using the iPhone with a 3 month free lease.

Softbank (SFBTF.PK) will lease Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 3G to corporate clients free of charge for three months as part of efforts to attract corporate users as the initial hype surrounding the device’s July release fades. Some 1,500 companies attending Softbank Summit 2008 are eligible for the free rentals, which are limited to five handsets per company. The promotion covers both the phones and the communications charges. Softbank president Masayoshi Son devoted most of his keynote address to the iPhone, giving concrete examples of how it can be used in business settings. Major apparel chains and banks are already looking at introducing the device. With the sales boom having passed, Softbank is looking to boost sales volume by cultivating demand related to business applications.

Japanese Tech Stock Weekly Summary (Sept. 8-14) – Seeking Alpha.

It seems Apple sold only 200,000 iPhone handsets in July and August, according to a recent WSJ article.

An analyst quotes a relatively high price, lack of TV reception, emoticons, RFID (radio chip allowing Suica-type services) and a Japanese market less prone to online shopping (iTunes App store).

According to market-research firm MM Research Institute, Apple sold about 200,000 phones in Japan in the first two months. Since then, however, demand has been falling steadily, and analysts now widely believe sales are unlikely to reach a total of 500,000 units. That is half the one million units that they previously thought Apple could sell.

Apple’s Latest iPhone Sees Slow Japan Sales – WSJ.com.

Here’s a recap’ of the current iPhone pricing plan in Japan, as sold by Softbank (special offers by Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera or others are not taken into account, for simplicity’s sake).

All prices include taxes. The iPhone has to be bought with a 24 months contract. Prices in red are the minimum requirements.

Contract fee:

JPY 2,835 for a new Softbank contract, or JPY 1,995 for a Softbank contract upgrade. This is a one-shot fee.

Calling plan:

The White Plan costs JPY 980 per month.

  • doesn’t include minutes
  • 1AM to 9PM: free calls to other Softbank users, JPY 21 per 30 seconds for other carriers (excluding international calls and special numbers)
  • 9PM to 1AM: JPY 21 per 30 seconds (excluding international calls and special numbers)
  • SMS, free to other Softbank users. S!Mail (@i.softbank.jp) free to other Softbank users (for others, data charges apply, see below)
The Double White Plan costs JPY 1,960 per month
  • doesn’t include minutes
  • 1AM to 9PM: free calls to other Softbank users, JPY 10.5 per 30 seconds for other carriers (excluding international calls and special numbers)
  • 9PM to 1AM: JPY 10.5 per 30 seconds (excluding international calls and special numbers)
  • SMS, free to other Softbank users. S!Mail (i.softbank.jp) free to other Softbank users (for others, data charges apply, see below)
If you have a family member that also has a Softbank contract, remember to ask for the 24/7 free call option (White Plan Family Discount 24).
Data plan:
As an iPhone user, you are required to take the Packet Flat Rate Full.
This unlimited data plan includes your browsing, email fetching and push services. The MMS (called “email” in Japan) is not possible on the iPhone (Softbank supplies a @i.softbank.jp address, but it’s not the real keitai MMS, since smileys and other options aren’t possible). All usual Yahoo! Keitai services cannot be accessed with the iPhone.
As announced on my blog, as of August 27, the Packet Flat Rate Full price was revised (for the second time since July 11): up to 12,250 packets, the plan flatly costs JPY 1,029. It then increments by JPY 0.084 by packet until it reaches JPY 5,985. As of this price, or 71,250 packets, there’s no more price increments.
JPY 5,985 is hence the maximum cost for the plan.
Note that 71,250 packets represent a little less than 10MB of data transfers. The incremental pricing plan is thus particulary useful if Wifi is the preferred method of data usage.
Data roaming is not covered here, as the price depends on each country visited.
Required services:
The S! Basic Pack is required upon the iPhone purchase. It costs JPY 315 per month.
You received the @i.softbank.jp email address with a limit of 200MB or 5,000 emails. Storage is given for an unlimited time.
Optional services:
The Basic Option Package offers the possibility to use the iPhone specific Visual Voice Mail function (without it, you can only use the normal voicemail by dialing 1416). You can save up to 90 3-minutes voicemails.
It also brings you Call Waiting and Group Calling (up to six calls conference). It costs JPY 498.75 per month.
Note these exist separately: Visual Voice Mail is JPY 315 per month. The Call Waiting costs JPY 210 per month. The Group Calling costs JPY 210 per month.
Softbank can deliver a itemized charge report for JPY 105 per month.
Finally, the Apple Care Protection Plan at JPY 7,800
Handset price & discounts:
This is the tricky part that many (especially foreigners) don’t understand. Since September 2007, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications banned the practice of selling heavily-subzidized handsets while keeping the communincation costs high (it has led to a market shrinkage, by the way).
Softbank thus created the various discounts to offer new incentives to its customers.
  • How much costs the 16GB iPhone 3G handset ? JPY 3,360 per month, minus the offered discount of JPY 1,920 per month. So, the iPhone costs JPY 3,360 – JPY 1,920 = JPY 1,440 per month, or JPY 34,560 after the 24 month.
  • For the 8GB iPhone 3G, the cost is JPY 2,880 per month minus a JPY 1,920 discount per month. The handset then costs JPY 960 per month or JPY 23,040 after the 24 months.
The Japan iPhone price is then in line with what Steve Jobs announced for the US. Only that you pay it over a period of 24 month.
For heavy calling users, a look at the New Super Bonus Special Discount might be worth a look.
Foreigners might be asked to pay the full price upfront (lack of credit card or credit card validity not covering the 24 months contract is often the reason). For the 16GB iPhone 3G, the price is JPY 80,640.
The JPY 1,920 discount per month still applies however. So, after the 24 month, the final price will be the same amount (JPY 34,560 or JPY 23,040).
In this case, getting the iPhone in a Yodobashi Camera or Bic Camera store might be a better idea, since points can be accrued on a Point Card.

Cancellation:
The discount is lost if a contract is ended before the 24 months period and the remaining price of the iPhone will be asked for.
I’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible in here (especially on the discount policies that can lead to endless discussions). Feel free to comment.

Some people have asked me why the address book will not show addresses on the Google Maps application on the iPhone.

The only answer I’ve got for you: it has to be written in Japanese and in the correct japanese way of putting addresses.

How to resolve this ?

In a previous post, I’ve told you how to look up for an address written in romaji (in English, if you wish) on both the internet and the iPhone and show them on your map. Now, here’s the trick if you want to link your address book with the maps:

1) look for the address in romanji on the iPhone Diddlefinger webapp

2) map it on Google Maps (Diddlefinger makes it very easy)

3) on Google Maps, click on the little blue arrow to open the Info dialog box. As you will see, the address will be displayed in Japanese and you are now able to either “Create New Contact” or “Add to Existing Contact”. You guessed it, by clicking one of the above, a contact has the proper Japanese address written in for future reference.

As and added bonus, if you sync with MobileMe, the address is also displayed in your Mac OS X Address Book.

Next question is, how to display it on your desktop Google Maps or even Google Earth ?

There’s a nifty free little plug-in that will do you just that:

The Google Maps Plugin is the easiest way to find your Address Book contacts using Google Maps and Google Earth. Google Maps Plugin for Address Book – Brian Toth

Softbank just announced that they will again cut the basic monthly fee for the iPhone in Japan.

It will now cost JPY 2,324 a month, from JPY 2,990 in August and JPY 7,280 when it was released on July 11.

It seems Softbank is feeling the heat from NTT Docomo and their new low-charge subscription. I guess Softbank also sees that the iPhone can only be a mainstream success if the price is competitive.

So, you have your iPhone and wished you could use the included Google Maps to find an address?

Not only will you have to master japanese writing, but the address system in Japan is quite the nightmare.

From the moment I’ve arrived in Japan, I started using Diddlefinger. This is a godsend for people still learning the language !

Their website offers multiple ways of looking for a Japanese address, the English Address Search being the most useful in my eyes. With this website, you can not only remember points but export them in Google Maps.

As the iPhone was launched, Diddlefinger got even better. There is now a dedicated iPhone page that allows address lookups on the move. The best part being that you can actually map the location on the iPhone Google Maps.

You can search by prefecture (-ku, -ken,…), by area, by -chome, etc.

No more trouble looking after a restaurant. Just find the address, map it and activate your GPS to see where to go (especially after exiting the subway… if you know what I mean). Sadly, iPhone maps limitations means you cannot use the directions yet.

If you live in Japan, iphone.diddlefinger.com should be linked on your iPhone homescreen.

On August 13, Wired asked their readers to submit the speed they were seeing with their iPhones.

The results of this non-scientific survey are in, and, as far as DL/UL speed goes, here’s their take on Softbank:

U.S. carrier AT&T tied for third with Telstra, Telia and Softbank, where users reported average download speeds of roughly 990 Kbps.

Sadly, Wired only got 13 responses from Japan, as their survey map shows.

How about you ? Do you get these fast speeds ? Go to TestMyiPhone.com and check for yourself. Alternatively, you can download and install Xtreme Labs’ Speedtest app on your iPhone.

Don’t forget to turn your Wifi off to get your actual Softbank speeds.