A simple design allowed to achieve a size roughly equal to a card

This small Sony device will allow to connect prepaid electronic cards to the iPhone or iPad. A free app will give you access to the balance and history and, apparently, charging the card will also be possible through the app.

The phone uses Bluetooth to connect to the card-reader which, in turn, uses RFID to talk to the card.

The PaSoRi—that’s the name—will read Suica (Japan Rail East’ contact-less card that most tourist will remember because of the lovely penguin) and Rakuten’s Edy card. It’s on the online retail giant that you’ll be able to buy it, starting “soon”.

Gaby Pena, on the Twitter blog:

Today, we’re launching Twitter Alerts, a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible.

This feature was actually launched a year ago in Japan, an initiative inspired by the massive use of Twitter during the catastrophe on March 11, 2011. The service saw a surge of people trying to get information, as LINE did.

Carrier also have a dedicated alert system in place, through a setting that your phone won’t have if you’ve not bought your phone in Japan.


The docomo Kouza Visa Prepaid users will receive a 16-digit card number linked to their account on docomo Kouza, the company’s electronic money service, to shop at most online stores where Visa is accepted, and the purchases will be immediately debited from their account.

This virtual payment service could prove quite potent. The service being prepaid, there is no screening delay. No more debit cards, only a smartphone .


For the first time since the launch of the iPhone back in 2007, the US are no longer the top grossing country for iPhone’s most popular content: games. Japan, that has a history of spending billions on mobile games before the arrival of smartphones and tablets, is taking to the app stores of Google and Apple big time.

The iPhone game revenues will exceed USD 1bn this year in Japan . Unsurprising, but still impressive. Moreover, the research firms affirms that Google Play is even bigger than iOS in Japan  when it comes to revenue, a situation similar than South Korea. In Europe and in the US, iOS still leads the market with that metric.

Juniper Research has recently estimated that 160bn apps will be downloaded in 2017, gaming being one of the fastest growing segment. The question for Japan is then: should you keep manufacturing independent portable devices?

Goo Research:

The purchase intention for an iPhone on DOCOMO is 10%

So, across all demographics surveyed, 10% of Japanese intend to buy the iPhone on DOCOMO . By itself, that doesn’t mean much. One could read “only” 10%, another “a solid” 10%.

What I find the most interesting in that survey is elsewhere: 20.3% of current smartphone owners—read Android—would like to switch to the iPhone on DOCOMO.

21% of the carrier’s own subscribers are willing to go iPhone, darn close from surveys over the years that have shown that around a quarter of the carrier’s subscribers wanted the iPhone. And, no less than 28.3% of DOCOMO Android owners want to switch to the iPhone .

Moreover, and as the research suggests, the iPhone could also be very potent for first time smartphone buyers on the network. The intent for this segment hovers around 19% now, but subscribers transitioning from a feature phone could see the iPhone as reassuring , thanks to the incredible reputation of the phone in Japan.

Another interesting titbit: 5.4% of au/KDDI users would like to switch to DOCOMO, 8.2% from SoftBank—but 11.8% of the carrier’s iPhone users.

Finally, why switch? 54.5% were just waiting for DOCOMO to get the iPhone .

I believe there’s a reason that DOCOMO’s executives repeatedly mentioned the threshold of 30% of  iPhone on their network—already a pretty big number.. They know it’s a very attractive handset for many of traditional customers—30% of those surveyed say they got interested in the iPhone because they want to transition away from a non-smartphone.

Some rumors have pointed at a DOCOMO actually expecting the iPhone to weigh up to 40% of its smartphone sales. And if we believe the study, nearly 60% of those wanting to switch will do so before next April.

The iPhone will really be big on DOCOMO.


Yukari Mitsuhashi on StartupDating:

a unique feature that lets users share their favorite page from a selected comic to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook

Not only can mobile users get the latest popular comic—a very successful type of publishing in Japan—faster than anyone else, but they can now share bite-size content on social networks.

Mobile publishing experiments have been doing quite well in Japan. Piracy rates are lower than in other industrialized countries and users are used to pay for content via mobile.

I keep saying that the mobile landscape has changed a lot since—foreign—smartphones have appeared in the country. But, undoubtedly, the behavior of mobile users in Japan gives the content industry a potential head start.

Thanks to BCN, a group that tracks consumer electronics sales from point of sales (with some exceptions), we have a better picture on how the iPhone fared in Japan this past launch weekend.

Weekly phone sales ranking

The weekly rankings are for the Sept 16 to 22 period, overshooting the launch period per se. As I had predicted1, the iPhone is dominating the charts.

There’s no differentiation for color, nor sales numbers. As expected however, the sales skewed massively towards the 5s2.

  1. iPhone 5s 32GB (SoftBank)
  2. iPhone 5s 64 GB (SoftBank)
  3. iPhone 5 16GB (au/KDDI)
  4. iPhone 5s 32GB (au/KDDI)
  5. iPhone 5 16GB (SoftBank)
  6. iPhone 5s 64GB (DOCOMO)
  7. iPhone 5s 32GB (DOCOMO)
  8. iPhone 5s 16GB (SoftBank)
  9. iPhone 5s 64GB (au/KDDI)
  10. Samsung Galaxy S4
  11. Kyocera Gratina KYY06
  12. Sony Xperia A
  13. iPhone 5s 16GB (DOCOMO)
  14. iPhone 5s 16GB (au/KDDI)
  15. iPhone 5c 16GB (SoftBank)
  16. iPhone 5 32GB (SoftBank)
  17. iPhone 5c 32GB (DOCOMO)
  18. Panasonic P-01 E
  19. iPhone 5c 16GB (au/KDDI)
  20. iPhone 5 32GB (au/KDDI)

Further down, the iPhone 5c ranks 25th for the 32GB on SoftBank, 28th for the same storage on au/KDDI and 30th on DOCOMO but for the 16GB version.

70% of iPhones

If you include the 5, the iPhone had a market share of 66.9% of all the sales last week. 77.1% if you narrow it down to the smartphone category.

The iPhone 5s 32GB by SoftBank took 7.5% of the market during the week, the 64GB model 7.4%. Impressive as they only appeared for part of the week covered.

The relatively strong performance of the iPhone 5 was certainly thanks to a last effort by the carriers to discount it and get rid of the stock.

Sales performance compared

BCN narrowed the findings down to the three days (September 20-22) and found that the 5s/5c sales were performing almost 1.5 better than the iPhone 5 during launch in 2012.

The iPhone 5 is the best-selling iPhone in Japan to date, it outsold the 4s by a ratio of roughly 1.6.

Below a visualization with this benchmark in mind.

It’s quite striking, isn’t it? Within the latest generation, 83.2% iPhone 5s were sold in Japan versus 16.8% of 5c , a number very close to the Localytics findings of a outselling ratio of 5 in favor of the iPhone 5s.

Carrier distribution

As you can remark on the rankings above, SoftBank seems to be well positioned in the race for the iPhone. I remarked on Sunday that it’s playing the card of being the carrier who knows the handset most3 in its marketing. It’s too early to say that this strategy worked, although one can think that it rings well to a certain audience.

A most probable explanation is that the launch weekend is frontloaded with early adopters: a good part of those presumably already are on SoftBank and either are transitioning their contract or simply won’t bother to switch (number portability exists in Japan, but they might not want to wait and get the iPhone right off the door). The fact that the 64 and 32GB versions are the most successful—on all three networks—also hints at an early adopter type of crowd.

SoftBank was responsible for 44.7% of the weekend iPhone 5s/c sales, au/KDDI for 27.5% and DOCOMO for 27.8%.

When you break it down between the two models, SoftBank gets an even higher share of the market for the 5s, 45.9%, seemingly proving that the early adopters did go where they are used to.

The 5c is more evenly distributed between the three.

The 5c will come into play at a later cycle, it will particularly be interesting to see how the carriers strategize the on-boarding of first time iPhone buyers towards the 5c (if they do it at all). I expect DOCOMO to play this card a bit more heavily than its counterparts.

It is however too early to read too much in those numbers, whether about the success of the 5c or the success of any carrier over another.

With the iPhone poised to lead the mobile phone sales in the forthcoming weeks, there will be a lot more to churn.


  1. it doesn’t require to be a genius to do so 

  2. as I mentioned on my last post, the 5c is not for the same audience and will rise later 

  3. it was the first to carry it in 2008, au/KDDI only started in 2011 and DOCOMO is the newcomer today 

Mona Nomura, on Twitter:

they don’t install — just bookmark on Safari.

Like we see here with Mona and Joseph talking about DOCOMO’s customer on-boarding, DOCOMO did not get any customization at all on the iPhone —what it kept saying was the reason for them not to get the iPhone.

I never believed in the rumors that the carrier would get a logo1. Along with Serkan Toto, I had conjectured that they would maybe attempt to install an app upon signing-up at the store, although it would have created a nightmare of creating iCloud accounts for every new customer (or use existing ones for those already signed up), politely insisting that the customer installs the app, etc.

In the end, DOCOMO only adds a bookmark on Safari in the iPhone .

On a related note, the carrier’s dedicated smartphone service, SP-mode, is far from functional with the iPhone. No phonebook backup, no payment gateway and users are reporting that the dedicated DOCOMO email is having issues, although it should be IMAP/POP compatible.

Here’s the aforementioned Twitter conversation between Mona Nomura and Joseph Tame:

  1. this rumor was strong in Japan for a while 


Apple leads the corporate brand perception rankings for the first time!

This yearly Nikkei Research study estimates the brand power, as perceived by businesses. Apple got high marks for originality, the premium aspect of the brand, but, most and foremost, the willingness by businesses to recommend its products. Reaching the top spot in Japanese corporate brand perception validates how Apple deals with businesses .

The survey doesn’t only include tech brands, the second place went to a home delivery business for instance. Microsoft fell to third place. Google went from 8th to 5th place.

The numbers are in. Apple sold a whopping 9 million iPhone worldwide this past weekend.

Apple® today announced it has sold a record-breaking nine million new iPhone® 5s and iPhone 5c models, just three days after the launch of the new iPhones on September 20.

As a comparison, it sold 5 million units on a similar timeframe when the iPhone 5 was released.

No country breakdown

Apple never breaks down sales numbers across countries, nor—and it is more important this time around—between models. There’s no way of knowing how many iPhone were sold in Japan alone. We will have a better overview of gains between carriers subscribers when the new contract numbers will be officially released early next month, but they will only show trends, as, again, no per-model segmentation. The iPhone will also clearly the most sold phone during this week in Japan—another estimate we’ll get next Friday—but, here again, no exact numbers will be given. ((note that the iPhone is not sold through the online Apple store, making delivery dates impossible to constantly guess))

There are still some inferences that we can make to put some light on the performance of the iPhone this past weekend. The easiest statement first: it’s pretty certain that the 9 million mark was made possible with the help of DOCOMO, the most important carrier in Japan.

5c versus 5s

It’s obvious that the iPhone 5s will outsell the 5c at this early stage: those who are lining up in front of Apple stores are like the moviegoers queuing for a new Star Wars movie . They want to be first to get the newest experience. The iPhone 5c is simply not a phone that was ever intended for early adopters . It will sell loads, but on a second or third wave: in Japan, probably the most around the Christmas period, if a continued pricing war ensues and lures new customers in, and around the end of the fiscal year (next March) when the Japanese carriers are giving it all to grab the most subscribers.

5s as the early king in Japan

Localytics, a mobile analytics and marketing platform, released some interesting numbers earlier today. And it confirms what I thought. Through a surveying of mobile and web apps1, it estimated that the iPhone 5s is outselling the 5c by a comfortable ratio.


What about over here? The iPhone 5s is outselling the 5c by a factor of 5 in Japan . This is higher than the worldwide ratio of 3.7 and the US, where it stands at 3.4.

I’m not really surprised by this higher ratio. The queues in Japan were always more impressive than anywhere else—the Japanese truly love the iPhone—and the definition of what is new itself has a strong appeal.

How many iPhone sold?

Yesterday, Nikkei ran an article that hinted at disappointing sales. It was mostly focused on how the pre-orders were faring. Since those only cover the 5c, I wouldn’t read too much into it.

Localytics metrics are what they are too: a representation of traffic for one provider, via some properties; they can’t tell the overall picture.2

I’m particularly startled at how China fares here. Last year, it sold 2 million during the first weekend. Granted, it was not during the iPhone 5 worldwide launch but later, thus relatively closer to the current release3. Still, the analytics could very well have a US bias (under-counting China to a large extent and maybe Japan somewhat too), allowing one to see the 5s/5c ratios as good estimates, but not the global distribution.

I’m thus only allowing myself to make a guess: 1.15 million iPhone 5s/5c sold in Japan during the launch weekend .

I could be proven wrong—I’m probably a bit optimistic—but, in any case, not bad.

  1. full methodology, as per the website: Localytics is the leading analytics and marketing platform for mobile and web apps across more than 1 billion devices, 20,000 apps and 5,000 customers. Localytics processes 50 billion data points monthly. For this study, we examined over 20 million unique iPhones and investigated the breakdowns by United States carriers and by global activations. The timeframe for this study is all active iPhones from when the iPhone 5s and 5c were first released on September 20th, 2013 until 8 pm EST, Sunday September 22nd, 2013. 

  2. the company notably massively over-counted the Windows Phone market share in August 2012. 

  3. a smaller cycle could have some impact on the sales 



NTT DoCoMo will sell the iPhone 5s and 5c with a SIM lock.

Since 2010, DOCOMO has been pledging to allow the SIM unlock across all its smartphone range, which it started doing. Was it hoping that the others carriers would follow suit (they didn’t), that the ministry of telecommunications would enforce it (it didn’t)? Or was it just an attempt to undercut the competition all the while waiting for the iPhone?

In any case, DOCOMO will not SIM unlock the iPhone .

Yukari Mitsuhashi on StartupDating:

Coudec uses a pay-for-performance model, allowing advertisers to display their ads at the most engaging moment when users are in certain apps.

The large Japanese social network has been a bit slow to plunge into mobile. With this new platform, Coudec, already deployed on its own app (30 million downloads), Mixi hopes to attract developers vying for both monetization and user activation . The model bets on a time-trigger system, especially interesting if you think about mobile coupons—a pretty big business in Japan.
I believe that it is thus not meant to replace existing ad networks, but to complement them. Unsure if that an good enough incentive to overcome the image of mixi on mobile as seen by developers.

Of note, it is apparently the same platform already used on CocoPPa, an app that allows you to decorate your smartphone home screen—12 million downloads to date.


Serkan Toto:

Colopl … was one of just a few game makers in Japan … that focused on smartphone app-based games (instead of smartphone browser-based only, for instance) relatively early.

CEO Naruatsu Baba … decided to move away from feature phones when “only ten or twenty percent of total mobile devices” in Japan were smartphones – it’s now clear that bet paid off.

USD 2.4bn market cap for a game maker is truly impressive . Bigger than GREE and not that far behind DeNA, the two Japanese mobile social gaming giants.

As Serkan rightfully points out, going smartphone was the good bet. The legacy—and success—of feature phone gaming is probably what held the two others back for a while.