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So it’s been a couple of months since the Nexus One was released to select markets.  Of course I am getting used to “select” markets not including Japan.

So far, Android based phones in Japan have been pretty much a dud.  Currently only one official Android phone is on the market here, the “Hero” based HT-03A from Docomo.  An interesting move by Google considering Docomo’s established history of hating everything smartphone.  True to form, Docomo launched the HT-03A without paid app support in the marketplace and a confusing marketing campaign that punished anyone foolish enough to express interest to a salesperson.

So the absence of the Nexus One in Japan is not by any means a shock.  Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fans here.  In fact, the development community behind Android is very active and Japanese developed applications are a substantial presence on the Android marketplace.  So it goes without saying that there are many in Japan who would like to get their hands on the flagship Google phone.  Google’s direct sales model does make this difficult of course.  Still there are plenty of Ebay resellers and other more creative methods to get a Nexus One smuggled over the border.

In spite of the danger, Mobile in Japan contracted a brave soul to sneak in some contraband so we could goof off playing with yet another toy evaluate the handset for our readers.  We will be posting reviews of the phone as well as more Android apps in the future, but first things first, we needed to bling up the phone.

In spite of it’s illegal alien status here in Japan, many have braved the world of gray market importing, and for those who have, there is one destination. Mobile Plaza.  This shop in the outskirts of Akihabara is the hook up spot for everything mobile and import.  Here you can find phones and accessories most Japanese consumers have heard of only in legend.  Need a battery for a Nokia E71? or a replacement battery door for your Blackberry 9700?  This is your one-stop shop.

I swung by to see what was available in Nexus One and was not disappointed.  Nexus One is definitely hot now, as there were whole sections devoted to cases, screen protectors and other accessories.  Not only that, but right next to the Motorola Milestone (Droid) in the showcase beneath the register was a small placard with “Nexus One” scribbled on it.  For the faint of heart not wanting to risk shady Ebay dealers, you can buy one here special order (usually requires about 2 weeks).

Once my Nexus One was all protected, I could play around freely.  Well, not really freely.  We still had to work out how to get it on a network.

The easiest way of course is just to pop in a Docomo SIM card.  Preferably one set up with a high data plan.  After that, the setup is basically the same as the HT-03A.  I gave up my last Docomo SIM card last year however, and am in no hurry to get another one.  So in goes my Softbank iPhone (Black) SIM.  Here things get a bit dicey.  There are plenty of resources on the internet guiding you to the network setting to get an unlocked phone working on SoftBank’s iPhone network.  While I won’t spill it here, a resourceful Google search will get you there.  But be warned, there are no guarantees this will work, and if it does, it puts you in violation of your user agreement.  This means that SoftBank does not have to apply the unlimited data discount on your plan which could lead to significant (as in astronomical) data charges.  Some users seem to be getting by fine, but just remember, you do this at your own risk.

One significant development has been that when we first got the Nexus One, there were of course no paid apps in the Marketplace.  While Docomo finally got around to opening up the service in Japan late last year, this appears to be a carrier based configuration, so the only way to access the paid apps was to pop in a Docomo SIM card, even when downloading over wifi.  But all that changed a couple of weeks ago.  All of a sudden, paid apps were visible in spite of the SoftBank SIM in the phone.  Does this tease a possible Android phone heading to Softbank in the near future?  Maybe. (well, not maybe. Definitely. Softbank has already announced plans to release an Android phone in Japan, but this move might mean we will see it very soon indeed).

So now we are (for the most part) happily playing around with the Nexus One.  How many of you are interested in Android in Japan?  Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or would like us to test out anything on the phone here and we’ll follow in up in future posts.

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