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Apple’s iPhone event might be only tomorrow, but here are three predictions for Japan:

How do I suspect that date?

Well, while SoftBank might be used to work with Apple and keep mum about everything from Cupertino, au/KDDI isn’t.

The marketing staff did a blunder.

the Leak that isn’t a leak

In its last marketing push about the Green Road Project —one where subscribers can donate money for each kilometer they walk or run to buy seeds for a greener Japan—, an iPhone mention is already printed, not only seemingly confirming au/KDDI is getting the handset, but also implying a release date.

kddi-iphone-japan-release-date-440x247

Yes, I know, it could be a typo. But, as usual here, I’m hedging my bets, accepting failure if I turn out wrong.

According to another sourced document (I insist that I was not able to independently validate it though), it seems that the US and selected European markets will get the new handset on October 14 and Japan a week later, on October 21.

One of my other sources tell me that SoftBank resellers have already started training for the new iPhone sale, seemingly confirming that the original iPhone carrier will get a new Apple release during the month October.

A new Uncertain Future for SoftBank

SoftBank is evidently the company that has the most at stake in having iPhone competition in Japan. Not only it remains the third carrier with about a fifth of the market (behind au/KDDI and the giant NTT DoCoMo, more numbers in my previous post), but its network is considered the weakest of them all.

It surely not non-coincidental that SoftBank’s CEO has just announced a massive investment plan to improve the mobile operator infrastructure.

The same could be said about what he wrote on his Twitter account on September 21, a few hours before the first rumors of au/KDDI getting the iPhone:

全ての人に分かれ道はやって来る。 問題は、そこで正道を選ぶか邪道を選ぶかだ。

Literally: Everyone has to change its path. The problem, choose the right or evil path.

More liberally: When you arrive at a crossroad, the question is about electing the right path.

He is talking about the end of SoftBank’s Apple golden era? Is it a sign of the Apple relationship turning a bit sour? One can only wonder.

A New smartphone strategy FOR KDDI

Interestingly, KDDI has shut down its Android au site at the end of last month as it was unveiling its fall collection of handsets. Until then, the company was firing all cylinders on its Android portfolio to the point of confusion: it was as if Android was a sub-brand of au/KDDI (or, some would say, as if au/KDDI was a sub-brand of Android). That Android-centric strategy was obviously bound to change with the recent release of a Windows Phone 7.5 —and, yeah, that impending new iPhone.

Will KDDI call out SoftBank seemingly weaker network out to lure new subscribers? Will SoftBank react by aggressively adapting its pricing model?

Interesting times ahead.

One thing is for sure, the iPhone is changing everything in Japan. Again.

 

 UPDATE: it’s official, KDDI gets the iPhone 4S. Only SoftBank confirms it will start selling on October 14.

Credits: @NewSrider_G for the original image included in this post & my fellow Mobile in Japan writer, Pietro Zuco, for looking at the various sources.

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