I think I might be sick. Mentally, you know?

Did I need a new iPhone 3Gs? Nope.

Did I need to stay up all night to wait in line to get one? Definitely not.

Was there a problem with my old iPhone 3G? Not really.

Do I have so much money I need to just throw it away? No way.

So that leaves me with the fact that I have a problem.

oh well. On with the review :)

So obviously I stayed up last Friday night at the all-night Softbank iPhone 3Gs launch event/party. To be honest, I had a pretty good time. Got to spend time with some good friends and meet lots of interesting people. I got to participate in a totally geek centered event that boosts my ego (always nice to know for sure that you are NOT the geekiest person in the room). Enjoyed the presentations, and even managed to win some cool stuff. And of course, I finished things off by taking my brand new iPhone 3Gs home with me.

Since I was mostly asleep when I first posted about this event, I’d like to start over and detail the events of the evening.

I started off my iPhone Night by first stopping by the Softbank store in Omotesando. I got there around 4PM and quickly ran in to reserve my iPhone. Had waffled for several days on the decision, but finally broke down and decided to go for it. Here are the things that led me to my decision.

1. Decided to get one from Softbank rather than importing an unlocked model. Two reasons for this choice. One was that after one year, I am now on my third iPhone 3G. Apple has kindly replaced my iPhone twice due to problems with the headphone plug and the center button. If I import, I can still probably get a replacement, but I doubt it will be unlocked. Second is the cost. By going with a two year contract, Softbank will pick up roughly 40,000 yen of the cost of my phone. Not getting that with an import.

2. Decided to upgrade my spare phone contract rather than upgrading or starting a new contract. Upgrading was an option, but since I had a second contract I get to enjoy the subsidy on both of my iPhones at the same time provided I do not cancel either contract. I had been thinking of canceling my spare phone contract, but well, I guess this works out in some way (rationalization). Oh, and three contracts seems a bit excessive. Even for me.

3. Sure I don’t really need one. But gosh darnit. It’s pretty, it’s Apple, and I have no willpower. After seeing reviews on the improvement in speed for web browsing and heavy application loading it was just a matter of time. Navigation is one of the power apps on the iPhone for me and directional navigation is sooo needed, and video is getting to be a more common media for me (although I am still just starting).

So I duck my head in the shop and quickly reserve a Black 32GB iPhone 3Gs. It takes less than half an hour and I am back out on the street in no time. I guess it helps that I am a long time customer of Softbank, so the process was very simple. I just gave them my phone number, showed them an ID and my passport, and told them what I wanted and everything was set. Most of the time in the shop was used by the salesman giving me the whole disclaimer lectures (3 pages worth) and making sure I signed enough forms.

Gizmodo Japan at the head of the line showing some Android Love. In back is the Focal Point team shilling Poken and Hugs.

Was tempted to join the already growing line in front of Softbank, but was not prepared so headed back home. Good thing too. Once home I took a quick shower, then put together my overnight bag. Not really the type of overnight bag most people think of though. This was my Tech Blogging Special var. I. It included;

1 Macbook Air

1 iPhone 3G

1 Sony A300 DSLR

2 Sony lenses. 18-80mm telephoto and 50mm prime

1 Sony HVL-F58AM Superflash

1 Sony vertical grip

1 Canon G10 with Eye-fi SD card, and spare battery

1 Cradlepoint PHS-300 portable wireless router.

1 EMobile D21HW USB 3G High Speed Modem

2 Eneloop Mobile Booster Professional batteries (Total of 10,000MaH power)

1 Black&Decker CPI100B Power to Go 100watt Power Supply/inverter

Ok, I know the sheer amount of mobile power I had in my bag was enough to set of Homeland Security warnings all over the place, but before you call it excessive, I have to say that every battery I had was practically drained by the time I got home.

After I got my stuff together, I caught a quick train to catch up with Danny Choo, Ken Lee, and Hector Garcia at Mirai HQ. Danny’s wife kindly drove us all (Danny in full Trooper regalia) back to Omotesando. Instead of hitting the line however, we zipped over to Cafe Ratia for Appliya Night. We got there around 7:30.

Appliya Night was fun, but we couldn’t stay for long. Appliya, being an iPhone development house was co-sponsoring the main event, so Appliya Night was used as a staging ground to gather iPhone developers together who would later present on the main stage. There Danny was joined by a troop of cosplayers who would later join him up on stage.

Around 10PM, we all marched about a block to the event hall that had been set up for the big event. The party was set up by Nobi Hayashi, one of the best known technology journalists in Japan. Around 400 iPhone fanboys were pulled from the line outside and allowed to spend the night in the event hall for presentations, contests, and a general geek-off. As we came in, both Joseph Tame and I were following the group shooting cameras wildly, so somehow we ended up with press passes. I thought it was pretty cool and took advantage of it by moving around the stage to get closer shots. This did cost me later on though.

For the next hour and a half, the event was a standard fare of presentations covering the iPhone and it’s place in Japan. Appliya brought developers up to preview their applications and even sponsored a contest where anyone in the room could get on stage to pitch for a favorite app and compete for prizes. Danny was up first with his presentation of the new DannyChoo.com app written by Ken and published by Appliya. Here’s a vid of his presentation and App.

After the fun, Softbank President Masayoshi Son himself entered the stage (He actually charged right past me and I had to jump aside and he ran up toward the stage). He went on about how great the iPhone and Steve Jobs are for about 5 minutes until the countdown hit midnight.
Midnight hits and Pres. Son announces that everyone gets a Otousan-Ken doll and iTunes gift certificate. Here’s where my press pass bites me. After the Softbank coolies speed past me, I ask for my goodies, but get told “No love for press.” !!! Well, I get my revenge later though.

After taunting us with the greatness that is the iPhone 3Gs, Son leaves the stage reminding us that we still have 7 hours left to wait. To help kill the time though we have lots of presentations and contest to keep us amused. A second round of iPhone app presentations is put together and this time I am somehow recruited. I choose for my app LogMeIn Ignition. The crowd seemed impressed with the remote desktop application if not by my post midnight presentation skills and I walked away with first prize, a Bose on-ear headset that works with the iPhone! I don’t need no stinkin toy dog!

They also do a ton of Janken contests to give away iPhone accessories and other gifts.
After the big midnight countdown most of the crew goes home to get some rest.

We line up inside the building before heading out to make sure it is nice and orderly. Every person was issued a ticket when they entered the hall with a number corresponding to your assigned seat.

Since not everyone who lined up is actually planning to get an iPhone, this translated to roughly 150. Since there were almost a hundred people assigned to selling new iPhones, this meant my time in line after opening was about 45 minutes. Not that bad really.

So about 15 minutes after we line up outside I’m checking twitter and the news is just breaking about Michael Jackson. By the time 7AM rolls around the rumors and counter rumors are flooding all the news channels. I even hear a few of the news reporters panicking about being in the wrong place while the story is breaking. Luckily I can be in two places at once as Andrew takes my camera and shoots some pics of the grand opening.

Finally! My time arrives and I set up in a small booth with a very skittish looking salesgirl. All in all it goes well. I think the advance work done by the clerk the day before kind of confused her though and she had to ask others around her repeatedly for help, but about 20 minutes later I have a brand new iPhone 3Gs in front of me.

So that about does it.  I still have to write about by post-first charge experience, but this post is already mega-huge, so I think I’ll call it a night.

The full post with images can be found over at my blog.

The time has come. On the 17th of June we get the next version of the iPhone OS. But thanks to the MobileinJapan community, I was able to get my hands on the OS a bit early. So here is a preview of the new iPhone 3.0 OS, running on an iPhone 3G on Softbank Japans 3G network. This is the full version of 3.0, but there are a few features like push and MMS that we are waiting for the network to activate.

This review is also cross-posted to my blog here.

In a Nutshell:
The long wait is over. OS 3.0 brings a lot of overdue functionality to the iPhone and a few neat tricks to boot. Still this is nothing like the bump from 1.0 to 2.0. In fact, the overall feel to the phone is exactly the same. Only a few small graphical changes give away the upgrade at first glance. Also, I don’t credit for push apps since this was promised as part of the 2.0 upgrade. I still haven’t seen how that works, but will try it out as soon as the apps hit the store. I do see why the new hardware has a faster processor though as I felt that the interface is a bit sluggish since the upgrade. I asked a few other people to try out my phone though and they say that it feels the same, so I guess no definite call there yet.

Batteries not included:
So what is not in the upgrade? Obviously, hardware related features are out. No new 3MP autofocus camera. No macro lens. no digital compass, no Nike+iPod integration. Additionally there are really no new features. Most of the changes that are available to iPhone 3G owners are merely enhancements and upgrades to existing functionality. In typical fashion, for new features, you gotta show the dough. So this means no video recording, no voice control, no turn based navigation in Maps, And of course there is the didyourcarrierscrewya feature, tethering. in Softbanks case the answer is an expected “Not a chance you freeloading bum.” No tethering in Japan. Finally, while Softbank has promised to turn on MMS support on the 17th, it’s not on now so I wasn’t able to test it out.
So that’s what is not inside. What did we get then?

Search: I know I left that app somewhere

Simply swipe your finger left from the Home screen and you enter the new search screen. Basically a Spotlight for the iPhone, Search lets you easy find and open Contacts, Apps, Emails and messages. Surpassingly responsive and seemingly comprehensive, This should make the Home screen a much more popular place to live. If you are not currently using the “push center button once to go Home” shortcut, I think you soon might be.

Much needed feature and well implemented. 10 points.

Cut&Paste: Was it worth the wait?

One of the more popular reasons to jailbreak your iPhone is now gone. And I mean gone. Cut&Paste forks just as advertised. Simply press and hold over any text or graphics and when you release, the Copy options appear. Then you can drag the points apart to increase the area you want to cut. No longer limited to text fields, you can now grab paragraphs from webpages, even objects and inline graphics. Then open up Mail or Notes and press-hold one more time to bring up the paste command. Easy-peasy and doesn’t stop you from running Skype.

You can even use the new motion commands to shake to undo. Still requires verification, so no accidental undos on the train.

Long overdue function that works as advertised. a bit tricky to get the hang of though. 9 points.

Bluetooth A2DP Support: Cut the cord already!

Yay! Finally stereo bluetooth support. I pulled out an old pair of Sony bluetooth headphone and discovering them was a piece of cake. Once paired, the iPhone reconnects automatically whenever the headphones are turned on. Sound quality was better and the connection was much more stable compared to using one of the plug-in dongles that have been kicking around. I was even able to take an incoming phone call by using the call button on the headphones. Music playback just pauses while you are on the call and resumes as soon as you hang up.
I think I can see why this was delayed however. Signal processing must take quite a bit of power so if I try running an app (say Tweetie for instance) while playing music through bluetooth, the iPhone starts crawling. More reason to upgrade to the 3G-S I guess.

Just press the speaker icon in the control wind to switch between speaker and bluetooth.
Another overdue feature, but old hardware suffers under the stress. Also lacks some functionality. 6 points.

Landscape keyboards: Mrs. Beacon would be proud.

Yup. Landscape keyboard alright. Available in all basic apps including Email. Ummm. yup. Like the landscape. yup.
Oooo. moving along.

Simple, Easy, Reliable. 10 Points.

Download Video from the iTunes Store: Die, Blockbuster, Die!

With a US based iTunes account you can now buy and rent videos on the iTunes store. That includes Movies, TV Shows and Music Videos. You can even redeem itunes gift cards right on your iPhone. No need to ever plug your iPhone into a computer again (well, not really). Of course, you are probably thinking that it can’t be that easy. And of course. The silly little 10MB limitation on 3G data connections is still there. so really video downloading is a wi-fi only feature.Mr. Jobs? Tear down this wall.

More importantly now however it the ability to log out of your iTunes account on the iPhone manually. This is a godsend for those of us with multiple accounts so we can download apps from the Japanese appstore. In the past you had to switch accounts on your computer, so switching around while out and about was not possible. The new Store menu in Settings takes care of that.

Great for people with iTunes accounts in multiple countries. -2 points for leaving the 10MB wall intact. 8 points.

Find My iPhone/Remote Wipe: Hit em’ from orbit

Afraid of losing your phone? Think you might have left it on the subway? Or maybe it’s at the office. Now you can be sure.Make sure to activate Find My iPhone in your MobileMe settings (requires a ridiculously overprices MobileMe account) and you can now pinpoint exactly where your iPhone is. Provided the power is on that is.
Just log in to you account on a computer and you can find your phone, send a wipe command (will delete all data on the phone, but leave phone functions active), or even send a message to the Yakuza currently holding your phone.

Typical enterprise feature that is cool to play with, but requires expesive MobileMe account. 5 points.

Anything else?
Apple advertise hundreds of changes in this version, and I’m sure I haven’t found them all. But here are a few more that I thought were at least somewhat useful.

  • Youtube account integration. You can now log into your own Youtube account! -5 points
  • Notes sync: Synchronize Notes to a desktop computer – 4 points
  • Autofill in Safari: Remembers your usernames and stuff – 4 points
  • Autologin to wi-fil hotspots: MUCH easier to get into those hotspots that require a login to connect. -5 points
  • ics support in calendar: You can now subscribe to calendars on the iPhone! -6 points
  • Voice recorder app: a 99cent app now part of the standard apps. -3 points

Is that it?Well, that’s all I got. So tally up the points and you get… Sorry. I don’t do math. Basically it’s a good upgrade, but nothing world changing here. Free for existing iPhone users is a good thing. It’s all pretty much positive, except I still think things are running a bit slower. Guess it’s time to start saving my yens for an iPhone 3G-s.

If you have any questions, post em up on MobileinJapan and I’ll try to get to em.

Time for some update on the iPhone front in Japan.

GfK Marketing Service Japan Ltd. has recently released its 2008 survey on Japan Consumer Electronics satisfaction (thanks to Nobi for the head’s up).

The Apple iPhone 3G is a long-tail product, a rarity in the handset market. Expectation rising for smart phones to capture the corporate market.

Reminding us how the iPhone was able to capture 13% market share on its debut last July 11, the report details how it generated constant sales over time. It states that in December 2008, the iPhone had a 8% share of the smartphone market in Japan.

While this number can impress, let me remind you how tiny the smartphone business is in Japan compared to the rest of the world. The percentage has, therefore, less significance than in other markets. Still, with business accounts making up to 12% of the subscribers in Japan, there is a wide margin to gain traction for any smartphone, including the iPhone.

More interestingly, the report goes on to state that Apple was able to gain 1% of the total market share in Japan, going as high as 2% in December 2008 only. If you compare that with what I’ve just stated, this is more impressive: gaining 1% of a market share with a single smartphone model in a country where smartphone have historically failed is quite a feat.
It is also in line with Apple’s goal that was set around this percentage number.

Nobuyuki Hayashi (widely known as Nobi) adds a spin to the iPhone story. He reports that a consumer satisfaction survey that ran in 2008 places Apple’s products at the top. The iPhone comes widely ahead in the mobile phone category (100 means complete satisfaction):

iPhone 3G 16GB (Apple / 73.7)
SO906I (Sony Ericsson / 66.6)
W61CA (CASIO /65.2)
W61SH (SHARP / 64.3)
923SH (SHARP / 63.3)