Following up on the runaway success of the Pocket Wifi D25HW mobile router, EMobile has just announced a new device,the Pocket Wifi S.

Dubbed “S” for Simple and Smart, the new Pocket Wifi is not just a portable wireless router, but is also a fully functional smartphone running Android 2.2.

The Pocket Wifi S, or S31HW, seems to be a pretty pedestrian Android device with a 2.9 inch touchscreen, 512MB memory with a microSD memory slot.

What makes it interesting is that it will be able to share its HSPA 7.2Mbps down/5.8Mbps up connection wirelessly with up to five devices.  While docomo introduced this function about a year ago, the tethering speed was limited to paltry PHS speeds and data was only provided on a pricey PC plan.  EMobile is offering unlimited data on the phone, plus anything tethered to it for the low monthly cost of 4,280 yen.  To top it off, the Pocket Wifi S will retail for 19, 800! That’s about half of the cost of the last generation D25HW Pocket Wifi.

The Pocket wifi will be available in Japan in January of 2011 in three colors .

Press release (Japanese)

* Updated with official press release. details and participating countries/carriers.

This has been mentioned by Softbank President Masayoshi Son several times over the last few months, but finally details are starting to leak out about an unlimited data plan for international roaming.

IMG_1050.JPG

While there has been no official release of information from Softbank PR, Japanese Apple weblog Ringo Sanco is reporting that the plan will be set at 1,980 yen ($22 US) per day. However, in a special promotion, until June 30, 2011, the service will be offered for only 1,480 ($16.5 USD) per day. Softbank subscribers using an X-Series smartphone, Disney phone, iPhone, or iPad 3G will be able to apply for the plan from July 21 of this year.

While speaking at a press conference at the launch of the iPhone 4 in Japan, Son spoke of how much he enjoyed using twitter and other online services, and how addictive they have become. While traveling abroad, customers using devices like the iPad could run the risk of gigantic bills resulting from even minimal data usage while roaming. This plan, while certainly not cheap, will make it easy for business travelers and vacationers to use data heavy devices and easily calculate the costs. Also with VoIP services like Skype now offering voice communication over 3G data, communications costs while traveling can be minimized while still offering robust options.

We’re still waiting for final confirmation on this information, as well as details regarding enrollment instructions and effected countries.  Stay tuned for more.

* Update 6/28 20:00: Softbank has issued a press release with details on the international roaming data plan here.  It confirms the information posted previously and adds information on participating countries.

  • United States (AT&T)
  • Australia (Vodafone)
  • Guam (Pulse Mobile)
  • New Zealand (Vodafone)
  • Indonesia (XL)
  • South Korea (SK Telecom)
  • Singapore (Singtel)
  • Thailand (AIS)
  • Taiwan (Taiwan Mobile/VIBO)
  • China (China Unicom)
  • Phillipines (Globe Telecom)
  • Hong Kong (CSL)
  • Malaysia (Celcom)
  • Ireland (Vodafone)
  • Albania (Vodafone)
  • England (Vodafone)
  • Italy (Vodafone)
  • Netherlands (Vodafone)
  • Greece (Vodafone)
  • Spain (Vodafone)
  • Czechoslovakia (Vodafone)
  • Germany (Vodafone)
  • Turkey (Vodafone)
  • Hungary (Vodafone)
  • France (SFR)
  • Portugal (Vodafone)
  • Malta (Vodafone)
  • Romania (Vodafone)
  • Egypt (Vodafone)

Another piece of interesting information is that it appears the cap is raised for a maximum of 2,980 yen per day for video downloads.  I’m not sure I like the sound of that, but more information should be forthcoming.

iPhone photo by Gonzalo Baeza Hernández’s

It’s finally here!

Watch us live from 7:00am Thursday, June 24 to watch as the first iPhone 4s go one sale in Japan.

Join in the liveblog by tweeting with the #iPhone4JP tag

No need to refresh this screen. The coverage will automatically start when we start blogging.

Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

The Fingerist by EVENNO (Trinity Inc)

A short while ago I caught sight of this accessory at an Apple themed event in Tokyo.  I couldn’t believe someone hasn’t done this before.  An iPhone add-on that turns your geek-phone into a real musical instrument!

Fingerist - 4

I finally got my hands on one and have had a great time testing it out over the last few days.  Sure there are lots of apps that simulate every musical instrument on the planet, but I always felt the experience was somewhat lacking.  Now I know what was needed.

The Fingerist is made by Japan based Trinity inc, and was developed in cooperation with local Apple fans and musicians to create a totally new musical instrument.  Basically an Apple dock connected to a speaker, the Fingerist turns any iPhone or iPod Touch into a something truly unique.

How it works

The Fingerist is about the size of a Ukulele and requires three AA batteries to operate.  Once you have put in the batteries, simply slide your iPhone or iPod Touch onto the dock and push it into the small recess in the middle of the Fingerist.  There is a small latch that will hold the iPhone in and a spring to keep it from wobbling around loose.  Then turn on the volume, start up any musical instrument app and you are ready to go.  I tried Pocket Guitar and Frontier’s Guitar app and had a blast plinking away.  The built in 3 watt speaker offers clear sound that will fill a small room, and there is even a standard quarter inch output plug for larger amplifiers.

Fingerist - 6

Build and Quality

I have to admit, I was just a small bit let down when I actually held the Fingerist for the first time.  While it looked at first glance like the casing was made with real wood, close inspection reveals that it is made almost entirely of high end plastic.  It’s actually very good quality and I had to look closely to tell, but the wooden parts are molded plastic with a special coating.  It actually feels very good and makes the whole thing lighter than I was expecting, but I still would have preferred solid wood.  On the whole however, I have to say the build quality is excellent.  The speaker is great and provides great sound and the whole thing has a very nice solid feel.  The use of the Apple dock interface means no loose wires.

Packaging

I was really impressed with the packaging for the Fingerist.  First of all, it didn’t come in a box.  It actually comes in a very nice soft case.  Not only does it reduce wasteful packaging, but it also saves you from having to buy a carrying case.  Great idea!

Fingerist - 1

Inside the case there is the Fingerist, a guitar style strap, and three silicon cases.  These are used to protect your iPhone/iPod and create a custom fit so it will blend into the front face without a gap.  I was very surprised to see that in addition to an iPhone 3G/3Gs and iPod Touch case, there was also a case for the unreleased iPhone 4!

Fingerist - 2

Price and Availability

The Fingerist was shown off at CES and promised a March release.  It seems that some problems with manufacturing has delayed the launch, but it is now available in Japan for 14,800 yen.  It should be available soon in the United States for a $150.00.  Pretty reasonable price for a fun and unique accessory.

Here’s a video of the Fingerist in action.

Just five days after opening pre-orders and another five days until the iPhone 4 officially goes on sale in Japan, Softbank has closed pre-orders for Apple’s new must-have handset.  With pre-orders already stopped in the US, it’s now much harder to get your new iPhone 4 on launch day.

Earlier today, Softbank posted a press release stating that as of 20:00 today, June 19th, Softbank would stop taking pre-orders online.

Softbank: Regarding iPhone 4 Pre Orders

It should be noted that Softbank has made it a point to inform all customers that even with a pre-order, it is possible that stock might not be sufficient to fill all orders on June 24.  Still, if you missed the pre-order mobs, you still have one last chance to get the prized iPhone 4 on June 24.

Softbank has listed 15 electronics retailers that will be selling the iPhone 4 on launch day along with all seven Apple retail stores in Japan.

  • Bic Camera Ikebukuro Store
  • Bic Camera Shinjuku West Exit Store
  • Bic Camera Yurakucho Store
  • Yamada Denki LABI Ikebukuro Mobile DreamKan
  • Yamada Denki LABI Shibuya Store
  • Yamada Denki LABI Shinjuku East Exit Store
  • Yamada Denki LABI Namba Store
  • Yamada Denki LABI Ikebukuro Main Store
  • Yodobashi Camera Shinjuku West Exit Store
  • Yodobashi Camera Multi-Media Akiba
  • Yodobashi Camera Multi-Media Umeda
  • Yodobashi Camera Multi-Media Yokohama
  • Softbank Omotesando Store
  • Softbank Shibuya Store
  • Softbank Roppongi Store
  • Apple Stores

If you have to have an iPhone 4 and haven’t gotten your pre-order yet, be prepared for a long wait in line in front of one of these stores for one of the limited number of handsets that will be available for walk-in purchase.

I’ve just gotten home after a very long day.

Pre orders for the new Apple iPhone 4 started today across the globe and Japan was right at the head of the line with lines forming outside Softbank stores, Apple Retails stores, and electronics and cellphone shops across Japan.

Here’s a video I shot from outside of the Softbank iPhone Flagship store in Omotesando.  (Sorry for the jerky footage).

At 5pm, pre-orders began in stores as well as online, but with just half an hour we began to get the feeling something was wrong.  After the initial batch of customers were brought into the stores, a significant amount of time seemed to pass without any additional people being brought in to fill out the reservation forms.

Checking on twitter, the same complaints were being broadcast from seemingly everywhere.  Even worse, complaints started to appear from people trying to register online.  Everything seemed to stop.

IMG_0969.JPG


While the iPhone Store in Omotesando continued to bring in people, the pace was notably slow.  With Over thirty desks set up to handle the reservations, it seemed that each customer was taking nearly half an hour, just to fill in a few forms.  At other stores, things just stopped completely.

Word then started to spread that the computers were down.  It seems that the incredible load of orders from stores across Japan as well as a massive amount of people trying desperately to order online was locking the entire system up.  Some stores stopped taking pre-orders altogether, while others issued tickets to those waiting in line so give them priority should they leave and try again tomorrow.

In the end I made it through the line.  I figure about 400 or more made it all the way at the Omotesando store, less I am sure than they had been hoping for.  But still, at least the valiant staff never gave up.

IMG_0971.JPG

Just a short while ago, Masayoshi Son, the president of Softbank, tweeted out an apology.  Along with a heartfelt apology, he explained that the problem was due to the servers being overwhelmed in the Kanto and Kyushu regions of Japan.

I’m not sure how many people were able to successfully pre-order today, but I am sure it’s less than had hoped to.  One thing is for certain, the interest in Apple’s newest iteration to the iPhone line has surpassed even the carriers predictions, and we are still over a week away from launch.

Word from Softbank staff as they were closing up the store was that pre-orders will continue tomorrow, but in store and on-line, but no firm commitment that the servers would be immune from a repeat disappointment.

Updated to include Apple retail store pre-orders.

Well, not quite.  But all has been revealed and if you want to be the first to get an iPhone 4 on your block, read on.

Cutting it very close, the final details of the iPhone 4 launch in Japan have been revealed including dates, times and prices.  A few interesting tidbits in there to boot.

To start with, only the black iPhone 4 will be available at launch.  While there are plans to also sell the white version, no date information has been released by Softbank.

Pre-orders for an iPhone 4, slated to go on sale in Japan on June 24, will begin at all Softbank carrier stores, Apple Japan retail stores as well as the online store at 5PM on June 15.

Note that in order to pre-order an iPhone 4, you will need to have your papers in order.

ONE of the following forms of identification.

  1. Drivers License
  2. Japanese Passport
  3. National Health Insurance Card + Proof of local residency
  4. National Health Insurance Card + Credit Card
  5. National Health Insurance Card + Student ID card with Photo
  6. Disability certificate
  7. Foreign passport + Foreign resident identification card

Payment can be made with credit card or through automatic bank withdrawal.

Now how much is it going to cost?  Here’s where things get a bit more confusing.  Get out your slide rules kids.

It appears that Softbank is no longer subsidizing the cost of the handset directly (similar to the iPad rollout in Japan).  So you will have the option of paying 57,600 yen for the 32GB model or 46,080 yen for the 16GB model, either cash up front, or in 24 payments of 2,400 yen/1,920 yen.

What! You say. That’s outrageous. at around $624 USD for the 32GB model and $500 USD for the 16GB, this more than doubles the US price of $299/$199.  Well, hold on. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

While there is no subsidy attached to the phone itself, Softbank is offering two years of discounted programs.  So let’s take a look at the data plans.

You will have a choice of the Value program or the basic Program.  The Value program has Unlimited data for 4,410 yen per month, while the Basic program has a scaled data plan that starts at 1,029 yen a month and maxes out at 4,410 with unlimited bandwidth.  The difference in the plans is pretty minor.  With raw data costs in Japan at ridiculous rates, the scaled plan seems pretty crazy.  1,029 yen is for no usage at all.  By the time you have put a dozen or so megabytes (yes, MB, not GB) through your phone in a month you have already reached the maximum charge of 4,410 yen.  So it will only save you money if you don’t use the 3G data at all.  Now the subsidy is linked to your data charge instead of the phone.

For the Value plan, a monthly subsidy of 1,920 yen is deducted from your bill for the first 24 months of your plan.  If you choose the Basic plan, the discount drops to 1,440 yen.  Seriously, just get the Value plan.  So while there is technically no subsidy on the phone, the plan does contain the same 1,920 yen discount we saw with the iPhone 3GS and 3G launches.  If you do the math (which I am loath to do) you come us with some very happy numbers indeed.

A two year commitment for a 32GB iPhone 4 will cost you 57,600 yen but return 46,080 yen in discounts bringing a total difference of 11,530 yen or around $125 USD.  A 16GB iPhone 4 will cost 46,080 yen with 46,080 yen discount or a whopping 0 yen!

For a full breakdown of your monthly charges including a cheap voice plan, you can take a look at this set of tables from Softbank. Top table is Value program with Basic program on the bottom. Pink shows monthly bill including basic voice plan and charges.

So there you have it.  You could say that Japan is getting the iPhone 4 at a bargain price, just saddled with a relatively pricey data plan.

There are of course still a number of unanswered questions (many of which I am not optimistic about) such as SIM locks, tethering, and upgrades for current owners of iPhone 3G and 3Gs, but it’s a pretty happy start.

Link: Pre-order and Price plan infor from Softbank (Japanese only)

Between 2 and 4AM this morning, a few die-hard Apple followers and a handful of grumpy tech reviewers peered through the intertubes for snippits and scraps of news leaking from Steve Job’s Keynote at the World Wide Developers Conference.

A somewhat disjointed exercise of scanning multiple live blogs, made even more difficult by UStreams quickly overwhelmed traffic and Steve’s eventual ban of portable hotspots inside the convention hall, the news was obtained, consumed, analyzed, and discussed online, mostly on twitter and a few bulliten boards. So what was announced and what does it mean to Japan.

iPhone 4

So of course, the big news is the release of the iPhone 4. The same device we have seen in spy shots for weeks, we now have concrete details about it’s makeup and functionality, and from what we know now, it’s pretty certain Apple has another hit.

Form factor: The iPhone gets its second major physical overhaul, losing the smooth curved back and replacing it with a glass ice cream sandwich design. The new phone is thinner and smaller than the iPhone 3GS, and replaces the volume toggle button with round push buttons. Perhaps one of the only changes that can not be unilaterally classified as an improvement, the smaller form factor should gain at least as many fans as detractors. But personally I am digging the flat glass backside.

Specifications: Pretty much everything gets a bump. 40% more talk time from a larger battery will make many people happy as accessory makers lament the possible loss of charger sales. The new A4 processor, scaled down from the iPad should offer a nice kick in speed to handle the more needy iOS4. The camera gets some much needed attention, upping the MP count to 5 while maintaining pixel density. With the new built in LED flash, the iPhone is finally getting a camera that is at least on par with other high end cell phones. Much attention is being paid to the new Retina screen, with exactly double the resolution of the current iPhone 3GS. With 4X the pixel count the resulting screen is reported to be incredibly sharp and pushed Apple back to the top of the hill. Finally, a quad band HSPA modem and wireless n compatible wi-fi bumps up the data speeds to the threshold of 4G. Conspicuously absent is a storage capacity bump, with only 16 and32GB models announced. This may mean we might have a capacity refresh sometime later this year, or it could also reflect the increasing pressure to put things on cloud services.

New Toys: So what’s new and different? The big “One more thing” announcement this year was the front facing VGA video camera and FaceTime video chat service. To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical here. We have had cheap, high quality telepresence capability for several years now, and certainly those people who use it are going to be very pleased with this new function (hobbled as it is with a wi-fi only requirement), but the mass market has yet to embrace video chat (with the exception of the emo tweens and predators hanging out on chatroulette). In fact, japan has had video chat on cellphones since the implementation of 3G. It was an early requirement of 3G phones that they should all have front facing cameras for this reason, and ironically the iPhone was one of the first phones to break this mold. While the high cost of 3G video calls was a factor in the general atrophy that the video call system has endured for nearly a decade, the average user still has lots of hangup when it comes to broadcasting their own face for casual communication. It will be very interesting to see if Apple will be able to break this trend with a video chat enabled phone.

iOS 4

The other big announcement centered around the OS itself. First of all the name; iPhone OS is now iOS and we are about to receive our next major upgrade. This time around, Apple has tacked the bane of smartphone existence, multi-tasking. While detractors have long blasted the iPhone for the lack of multi-tasking, what only a hardened, battle scarred smartphone veteran can explain to you is that no one has actually ever done multi-tasking well. We’ve lived between “I can live with it” up to “not that bad” as users have been forced into daily reboot routines and task killer performance monitoring applications. Heck, even my laptop struggles with multi tasking when I get really busy, and so will the iPhone. Average users don’t forgive poor handset performance if the app slowing things down isn’t visible on the screen. Hopefully the iPhone 4 will be able to keep things speedy and stable. I’m less confident about my iPhone 3GS or even a 3G being able to handle the load. Still, the introduction of background processes opens up a whole new world for developers to create new tools for consumers and I am all about that.

Also loving the folders for organizing apps on the iPhone. We’ve needed this since the app store opened and it can’t come soon enough. I just hope they don’t throw in silly flourishes like the icon rearrangement for the iPad (which makes it nearly impossible for me to find any app on the iPad).

Overall, it will be an interesting and anticipated update to the operating system. What’s even better is that it’s less than two weeks away with a free download for iPhones on June 21st.

So what about Japan?

Well, still no official word on pricing and plans in Japan, but I would anticipate that will come in the next day or so. We do have a launch date and this was a nice surprise. In the past, Japan has been well treated with Apple launches, usually getting a new iPhone in the first batch of international partners a short time after the US launch. This time however, Apple is doing a full court press, launching the iPhone in five countries all at once, The US, UK, France, Germany, and (YAY) Japan will all get a crack at the iPhone 4 on June 24 (with preorders starting June 15). So do a little time zone math and you come the the remarkable conclusions that

JAPAN IS THE FIRST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD GETTING THE iPHONE 4!

Yup. let that sink in a bit,

Before the US, before the UK.  Hours before the sun peaks up in the east coast of the US, there will be Japanese users happily playing with their new iPhones.

But who will be getting one?  Of course with no pricing info, (I would expect similar pricing to the US with $199/$299 for a subsidised iPhone 4 16GB/32GB) we don’t know how eligibility will work.  All iPhone users in Japan are still technically on their two year contract, with even those who lined up overnight to buy the iPhone 3G when it launched have weeks left on their agreement.  No word from Softbank if there will be an early upgrade option, and those with a 3GS have over a year to go.  More questions surround topics like tethering, unlimited data plans, and SIM locks, although I doubt anyone is expecting any happy surprises in these cases.

Still, this with strong improvements in nearly every important metric, this will certainly be a big hit in Japan and you will likely see first day lines that make the 1,200 people lined up in Ginza for the iPad launch look like a simple practice run.

Stay tuned for more information an analysis as the next few weeks will likely be pretty exciting, and join in the conversation with the Mobile in Japan community in our iPhone forum.

With just hours to go until the official launch of the iPad in Japan, we are gearing up for another long night.

Right now, there is a live party going on at Velours in Aoyama.  While the event is closed, there is a Ustream feed that you can catch live now here.

http://www.ipodstyle.net/special/event/20100527ipad/index.html

I’ll be heading over in an hour or so to check out the scene and will be sticking around as long as I can, hopefully up to the launch ceremony at the Omotesando Softbank shop at 8am.

Hopefully I will be able to update this blog entry with photos and streaming video on my Ustream channel.

Continue reading

Impress Watch is reporting that as of 3:30 pm today, just two days after the iPad opened pre-orders in Japan, retailers in Japan have ceased to accept new pre-orders citing limited supply of the initial shipment.

According to customers who pre-ordered the iPad already, even people with a pre-order are not guaranteed to get an iPad on launch day if stocks are depleted before they pick up thier order.

At the Apple Store in Ginza, customers were told that it additional stock might be available for walk in sales on May 28, but there is no guarantee any additional iPad stock would be available to walk in customers.

Pre-orders are still possible on Apple’s online store, however the estimated shipment date has slipped back from May 29 to June 7.

It is unclear how many iPads will be made available in the initial launch day shipment, but it is increasingly likely that Apple will have a sell-out first day.

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

The last 48 hours have been quite a rollercoaster. Following the announcement of pricing for the iPad in Japan and other global markets, the big question has been “will it be SIM locked”.

From the first announcement by Steve Jobs introducing this “Magical” new product, the announcement that the device would be SIM free has been a big boost for Apple. Sure, no other product on the market uses the micro-SIM standard that the iPad requires, but the possibility that you’ll be able to move your iPad easily to another network in the future should you move or find a better provider was sweet music to those iPhone owners suffering under less than satisfactory carrier restriction. The pricing model made sense. Since the device is wholly unsubsidized by the carrier, the iPad should be portable to any company that can provide a network compatible for it.

But of course, no one was sure if this promise extended to the iPad in other global markets. It is slowly becoming clear that this will not be the case, at least in Japan. While no official statement has been published on either the Softbank or Apple Japan webpage, entries in the iPad order page FAQ posted this morning on the Apple website seemed to imply that the iPad sold in Japan would indeed be SIM Free.

Specifically this section

As it turns out, this is simple a translation of this section found on other international Apple webpages.

You would assume that if you can travel and get a SIM in a country you are visiting, the device would have to be SIM lock free.  Well, you would be right, but in the case, it turns out that the website is wrong. In Japan at least we are getting confirmation that all iPads sold in Japan will be SIM locked to only work on Softbank’s mobile network.

From Impress Watch

“It has been announced that the iPad wi-fi+3g version sold by Apple will be be locked to only use SIM cards from Softbank Mobile.

Apple has also confirmed that “All iPad’s sold will only be able to connect to Softbank Mobile’s network”. No reason or details have been disclosed.”

From IT Media

“According to information released by Softbank on May 8, iPad wi-fi+3G models sold from Softbank shops will be SIM locked so that they can only connect to Softbank Mobile’s network.

Over the next 10 days, many people are expected to stop by the Apple Store to pre-order.  They will be told by Apple staff “Apple iPad sold in Japan are all have SIM locked”. Softbank is Apple’s exclusive partner with for the iPad and iPhone. Basically, all iPads sold in Japan are SIM Locked.

To make matters worse, more news is emerging showing even more draconian controls. Impress Watch goes on to explain that you will not be able to get an iPad compatible micro-SIM from Softbank if you do not purchase an iPad from them. You will not be able to use the Softbank network if you bring an imported iPad sold in another market. They explain this is due to the fact that imported models are not certified wireless devices.

Weekly Ascii backs this up by confirming with both Apple stores and Softbank that

  • No SIM Free iPads will be sold in Japan
  • 3G models will not be sold without a contract
  • Even using micro-SIM from another network will not work on SIM locked iPads
  • You can not make a contract for an imported iPad

What I’d like to know is when did Softbank kidnap Steve Jobs’s dog? Apple is getting nothing from this deal. Softbank is not subsidizing the iPad, except to waive interest fees for people who want to pay for their iPad on a two year payment plan and who sign up to a two year unlimited data contract. iPad customers will not be able to get local pre-paid data SIMs when they travel, and people coming to Japan will also not be able to use their 3G iPads in Japan without paying insane roaming fees. Japanese customers are getting a hobbled product and are not getting anything in return.

To add insult to injury, Apple seems to be pretending that nothing is wrong here. As of the writing of this article, the iPad Pre-order page on Apple Japan’s website still indicates that the iPad wi-fi+3G in not SIM locked. Apple has agreed to let Softbank completely run the show for this product, and Softbank has decided to lock this puppy down.

It will be interesting how Docomo will react to this. Just a few weeks ago, Docomo announced plans to release an iPad compatible micro-SIM with the expressed purpose of capturing some of the iPad market. However Bloomberg is now reporting that those plans are now officially dead in the water. It’s one thing to treat your customers like cattle in Japan. It’s a very different thing to lock out all your competitors from similarly abusing their customers. Especially when that competitor is a psudo-government entity like Docomo.

So what can you do?  Well, if enough people complain before the 28th, maybe something can happen. Nothing seems to be official enough that either Apple or Softbank is willing to just come out and say it publicly. However realistically it;s far to late to change things for launch.  Still, early online response to this is decidedly negative and the dissatisfaction is growing. We can hope that eventually Apple will develop enough of a backbone to stand up to Softbank as they did finally getting permission to sell iPhones in their retail outlets.

Or another option is just to grab an EMobile Pocket wifi and go with an iPad wi-fi model, it’s the solution I have been using for weeks now, and to be honest it works just fine. I can use Maps with no problem, get YouTube in full resolution, download any size app and even use Skype. All with no jailbreaking required.

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

[* Updated: Local news agencies now reporting iPad 3G will be SIM locked in Japan. Read below for details]

It’s P-Day in Japan.  That’s “P” for Pre-order I mean.

As of today you can pre-order your shiny new iPad.  But remember, no iPads will hit the street until May 28 in Japan.  As I am writing this, I am even hearing reports of  people lining up in front of shops to be the first to put their names down.

If you want to know what it will cost you, check out our price breakdown post, but besides price, what else do you need to know?  Well, to start with;

Where can I pre-order an iPad?

The iPad can be pre-ordered in person at the following locations.

You can also pre-order the iPad online at the Apple Online Store.  But note that you can only pre-order the Wi-Fi only model online.  You must stop by in person to pre-order a wi-fi+3G model.  Also, there is no in-store pickup option in Japan like there was in the US, so if you order online you have to have your iPad shipped to a location somewhere.

What do I need to pre-order an iPad wi-fi+3G?

Sure, it’s just a pre-order, and not an actual contract at this point, but don’t forget your documentation if you want to reserve your iPad 3G.  Here’s what you will need.

ONE of the following forms of identification.

  1. Drivers License
  2. Japanese Passport
  3. National Health Insurance Card + Proof of local residency
  4. National Health Insurance Card + Credit Card
  5. National Health Insurance Card + Student ID card with Photo
  6. Disability certificate
  7. Foreign passport + Foreign resident identification card

In addition for the iPad, the only method of payment allowed for the iPad plan is credit card payment.  So it looks like automatic bank withdrawal and convenience store payment are not acceptable.

Micro-SIM and SIM lock

There have been plenty of rumors floating around the intertubes over the last few days, but here’s is what has been officially announced regarding the iPad SIM cards.

According to Apple Japan’s website, the iPad is not SIM locked.

“The iPad wi-fi+3G can be used with a micro-SIM card provided with an iPad compatible data plan”.  On international usage, “To use a local data plan while roaming, use a micro-SIM with iPad data service.  For international roaming service, please check with your domestic service carrier”.

Now, we still do not have practical verification.  That will come when we actually have reports of people plugging in different SIM cards.  Also keep in mind that Apple can change the wording on their site any time before the actual launch day, but take this as a positive sign that the Japanese iPad will remain SIM-lock free.

Also note, that Apple has stated that the iPhone SIM and the iPad micro-SIM can not be swapped.  Well, certainly they are different sizes, so they can’t easily be exchanged, but they go as far as to say that you must be on an iPad compatible plan, so even filing down you iPhone SIM to fit into the micro-SIM slot might not be enough to get your iPad working (and would certainly violate you users agreement).

UPDATE #2: Impress Watch and ITMedia are now both reporting that all iPad wi-fi+3G models sold in Japan will be SIM locked.  This contradicts information on Apple’s own webpage, but according to ITMedia, an official statement from Apple confirms that “Due to Apple’s partnership with Softbank with the iPhone 3G and 3GS, the only network that all iPads sold in Japan will be able to access is Softbank”.  As of this update, Apple’s webpage has still not been updated and continues to state that the iPad can be used with any micro-SIM card that has an iPad data plan.

Docomo has reportedly expressed regret that their plans to offer a micro-SIM compatible with the iPad are not going to work.

In addition, Impress notes that customers who buy iPad 3G models overseas will not be able to make a contract for due to the fact that imported models are not certified to operate in Japan.

This is very disappointing news, and you will certainly be hearing more, both on this website and others, leading up to the May 28 launch of the iPad in Japan.

UPDATE: The discussion on twitter regarding the locked status of the iPad is quite lively now.  Information coming from the Apple camp implies that the iPad is unlocked, however inquiries to Softbank have been coming back that the iPad will be locked to Softbank only.  Is the Apple website just an unedited translation or is Softbank trying to play up their launch exclusivity. We may not know until May 28 so buyer beware.

Softbank exclusivity

In the MetPod Podcast yesterday, Softbank Store General Manager Mihoko Kasuga stated that Softbank has an exclusive for the iPad launch in Japan.  While this doesn’t restrict other carriers from coming out with compatible micro-SIM cards and plans, it does look like at the very least, we won’t see them on May 28.

While it’s only a matter of time until micro-SIM cards start to appear in Japanese handsets, the iPad will be the first device in Japan that uses them.  I would bet that the iPhone 4G will be the second, so there is certainly no rush by Japanese carriers to support the format.

For now at least, Softbank has the only horse in town, but you can bet EMobile is salivating with at the number of Pocket wi-fi’s they will be able to sell with the iPad wi-fi.

Accessorize your iPad

Bring out the bling!  While Amazon Japan has been flooded with 3rd party iPad accessories for a while now, but now we have the official add-ons.  On the Apple online store, along with the iPad, you can also pre-order the iPad case, dock, keyboard dock, camera connection kit, vga adapter, and 10 watt usb power adapter.

So what are you waiting for?  If you are in line right now to pre-order or will be signing up, make sure to check out our iPad forum and discuss the iPad with your fellow iPad peers.

Thanks to @TokyoDan for the pic!

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

[* Updated with new plan information]

Sorry for all the iPad traffic lately. Rest assured we are still keeping our eagle eye’s out for other mobile coverage in Japan.

But the moment we have been waiting for is here.  Softbank has announced pricing for the iPad and iPad 3G, as well as details on two 3G connection plans, a monthly unlimited plan and a pre-paid option.

http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/ipad/

So let’s take a look at what we have got.

First of all, you will have a choice of paying up front cash, or buying on a two year installment plan.

So pricing for an iPad Wi-fi only model in cash would be

16GB: 48,960,  32GB: 59,040, and 64GB 68,880

Using installment ups it a bit at

16GB: 53,280, 32GB: 63,360, and 64GB 73,200

Pricing for the iPad 3G model with the prepaid plan would be

Cash purchase

16GB: 61,920, 32GB: 72,000, and 64GB 81,840

monthly installments (24x)

16GB: 66,240, 32GB: 76,320, and 64GB 86,160

If you sign up for a two year contract for unlimited data, Softbank will eat the interest for you so there is no difference between cash purchase price and installment plan.  So the 3G model on the monthly unlimited data plan (2 year contract)

16GB: 58,320, 32GB: 67,920, and 64GB 77,280

see the full price chart with detail here

http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/ipad/price_plan/chart/

Note that all iPads come with two years of free access to Softbank’s Wi-fi hotspot service (after two years the cost will be 490 yen/month).

Next we have the data plans.  You’ll have to sign up some data service in addition to purchasing an iPad to use Softbank’s 3G data network.

Softbank is offering their standard unlimited data plan of 4,410 yen a month, however if you are using an iPad, you can receive a 1,500 yen a month discount dropping the monthly charge to 2,910 a month.  I assume this means that if you pop out your micro SIM and somehow get it into a computer or other device you risk losing your discount.

There is also a monthly prepaid service that offers you up to 1 GB of data that you can use for up to 30 days.  This will cost you 4,410 yen a charge.  This is not as great a deal and if either 30 days pass or you use your 1GB of data up (whichever comes first), you will need to recharge your plan.  You can set this up to work automatically, but that could lead to some scary charges if you somehow download a lot of data.

Remember, pre-orders start on Monday, May 10 at 10 am.

and as for Docomo, no official word.

*UPDATE 5/9: Thanks to community member ketahi who found information on a third data plan.  It seems that in addition to the 1GB prepaid plan, there will be an additional 100MB prepaid plan offered starting July 1.  This plan will cost 1,510 yen per month and people who sign up for the 1GB plan will be able to swap over to the lower plan when it becomes available.

press release with more detailed plan information

http://www.softbankmobile.co.jp/ja/news/press/2010/20100508_01/index.html

So what do you think of the pricing for Japan?  Send us your comments!

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UPDATE 5/10: All you need to know in order to pre-order an iPad

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

This just in! Apple has just issued a press release listing nine countries that will be launching the Apple iPad on May 28.  Pre-orders will begin in just a few days on May 10, with pricing and data plan information soon.

From the release sent by Apple PR.

Apple® today announced that iPad™ will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK on Friday, May 28. Customers can pre-order all iPad models from Apple’s online store in all nine countries beginning on Monday, May 10. In the US, Apple has already sold over one million iPads and customers have downloaded over 12 million apps from the App Store, as well as over 1.5 million ebooks from the new iBookstore.

Apple plans to release iPad in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July. Apple will announce availability, local pricing and pre-order plans for these nine additional countries at a later date.

Are you planning on picking one of these”Magical” devices up? If so, check out this discussion post in our forum.

We’ll be bringing you more news about the Japan release as it is announced.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Softbank has released pricing information. Check out the scoop here

http://mobileinjapan.com/2010/05/08/softbank-reveals-ipad-and-3g-data-pricing-for-japan/

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

For years there has been tremendous interest in using Japanese cellphones in other countries. Recently however, as  development of next generation handsets has stalled within Japan, there’s been growing interest in using foreign handsets in Japan.

In the 2G era, while Japan was protected as a technological Galapagos island, network incompatibility prevented anyone from either using Japanese cellphones abroad or from bringing cellphones for use in Japan, unlocked or not. But with the introduction of the global W-CDMA 3G standard came foreign immigrants in the form of Nokias, HTCs and or course the iPhone.

Both NTT Docomo and Softbank operate on the 2100 Mhz W-CDMA band which is compatible with most of the global 3G network providers around the world so now, most 3G hardware available on the open market is technically able to work in Japan. I say technically because there are still quite a few safeguards put in place by Japanese carriers to prevent both exporting and importing.

One barrier is SIM locks. While there has been quite a bit of discussion lately in Japan on the subject, the fact is that now Japan is one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to locking down of cellphones to a single carrier. Breaking a SIM lock in Japan not only voids your contract and warranty, but is against the law and Japan is one of the few countries that enforces this.  There have been raids on shops that unlock Japanese cellphones. In spite of the recent interest and discussion I am doubtful that this trend will change anytime soon. SIM lock free phones, while not unheard of, have been rare to the point of insignificance, and as such carriers are usually unwilling to assist customers in attaching an “unsupported” handset to their network, even if the phone is a legally unlocked model.  There are no incentives for carriers to modify their business plan and the government is too inclined to the the industry regulate itself.

Luckily there are an abundance of webpages that assist the few brave souls who attempt to go this route with settings and guides on how to use their foreign booty in Japan, but as with all thing, relying on the advice of unknown individuals on the internet is not without risks. For one, there is the danger that the carrier you shoehorn your mobile onto might not be happy to have you as a customer.

Japanese carriers still treat data as a premium commodity. While recently with the arrival of true internet capable smartphone such as the iPhone, reasonable pricing plans have started appearing, these are mostly band-aids on a broken pricing model. I can get unlimited data on an iPhone for less than 5,000 yen a month, but that’s only because I am getting a discount equivalent to the extra amount of my monthly data usage. The raw cost of data is unreasonably high, with a real charge of over $500 for just 100MB of data. Without the discount on my plan, my monthly iPhone bill would be in the thousands or tens of thousands of DOLLARS each month! Of course any unauthorized use of my SIM card can void my discount, so even if you get your imported phone working, you still take a risk that an very unfriendly bill can find it’s way into your mailbox next month.

With so many deterrents standing in the way of consumers, it’s hardly a surprise that you don’t see many off network cellphones around. With the scarcity, of course come yet even higher costs. The few stores that deal with imported goods tend to charge ridiculous import fees. I’ve seen imports going for as cheap as 30% over retail to over 200% from local shops. A better route for many is mail order. There are plenty of websites selling unlocked mobile phones that will ship to Japan. Of course there are plenty of risks with this path as well. Aside from standard complaints of online retailers such as poor customer service, delayed shipments, and even fraud, you also have to deal with international shipping, customs duties, and potentially expensive shipping costs if your phone needs to be replaced. You are also not guaranteed to get the phone working in Japan and have no official support should you have some problem operating your device in Japan.

So why go through the hassle? As someone who has gone this route many, many times, I think it has to do mostly with prestige. The difficulties and additional costs rule out any real practical advantage, but there is certainly something to be said for being the only person in a party with that cool new phone (as I am writing this article in a cafe on my imported iPad). If you can afford to spend a few extra yen on a prestige phone, or are subsidized by a company to do testing of a non-supported phone, it’s always fun to see the surprised expression on someones face when you pull out that mystery device and show off it’s amazing functions. But be prepared to trade emails with online vendors and shipping companies, scour internet newsgroups to get your contraband working, and live in mortal fear of the dreaded DOA shipment.

If you have any success or fail stories involving imported mobiles in Japan, feel free to add them to the comments below.