Thursday, October 30, 2008

Japanese iPhone Users Get Battery/TV Tuner Pack

October 30th, SoftBank, the Japanese iPhone carrier made some announcements on improvements in hope of boosting iPhone sales. The announcement took place at SoftBank's press release event of their 2009 mobile phone lineup. 

The CEO admitted that there are three flaws with the iPhone:

  1. Short battery life
  2. Lack of 1-seg (digital TV broadcast)
  3. Lack of "Emoji"; Japanese emoticons
It may seem hard to believe this in the U.S., but as I predicted, these are huge drawbacks for the Japanese market.

"TV & Battery" Pack

One of the big announcement was the "TV & Battery" pack for the iPhone.

Press release: 1-seg Viewable on the iPhone 3G!

This is a SoftBank genuine iPhone 3G accessory only for the Japanese market. Expected to be around $100 USD, this external miniature iPhone-looking device will weigh 80g and can provide one full battery charge.

And of course as the name implies, it is also a digital TV tuner. The iPhone will connect to this tuner via Wi-Fi and is viewable with a dedicated app yet to be released. It was mentioned that eventually TV shows will be recordable.


And as we already know, "Emoji" emoticons are expected to be supported by the end of the year. Interestingly, this announcement made the Emoji rumors now official and 2.2 software very likely to be release by the end of this year.

Free Wi-Fi

As just happened in the U.S., Japanese iPhone owners will also be provided with free Wi-Fi access nationwide.

Press release: Free "Unlimited Wireless LAN Access" for iPhone 3G Users

Beginning November 4th, the service will be provided through SoftBank's "BB Mobile Point" hotspots;  approximately 3,500 locations, mainly at McDonald's. Better yet, after December 1st, access will be granted without entering username and password as credentials.

Now, is this really going to boost iPhone sales in Japan? I don't think so. Apple designs are industrial and cool but not cute; Japanese people like cute stuff. Maybe targeting business users or SMB would be a good idea. Enterprise, probably not. Apple will need to bring NTT DoCoMo on board for that market.

I am starting to wonder if Apple will eventually release variations for better lineup. And how much influence the Japanese market will have on Apple.

Also see: MyCom Journal article on this event ; CNET Japan photo report (Japanese)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Free Wi-Fi for iPhone Users — For real

AT&T finally provides free Wi-Fi for iPhone users. iPhone owners should have received a free SMS text message on this announcement. Check out

How does this work? Go to an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot; the network name is "attwifi". Once you are connected, you will enter your mobile number and you will receive a SMS text message with the information to enable access for 24 hours.

I don't know if this was a good timing for this move since the hype kind have died out. Personally, I've been using the Starbucks Rewards Program's free Wi-Fi so it's not really a big deal anymore. Although, if AT&T pulls out the service again, probably it will create some news again...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Expect "Die Hard 2" Scenario to Come True

In the "Die Hard 2" movie (Wikipedia), the terrorists takes over an airport control tower and crashes a plane. Well, not exactly the same, but scientists has just proved that a similar thing may happen. Scientists succeed in spoofing GPS signals

Nowadays, we are so dependent on GPS; so is the aviation world. You may be annoyed if your car gets misled and get lost on your way to an important meeting, but that doesn't compare to your plane being misled and crashing in to a mountain.

Pilots: please learn astronomical navigation techniques. Thanks.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yahoo! Japan for the iPhone

So, Yahoo! Japan website came out with an iPhone edition. Not sure why they didn't announce it before the iPhone launch, but it is available now. This may be good for Japanese speaking iPhone users in other countries too as there were hardly any contents in Japanese intended to be accessed by this mobile phone.

The URL (website address) is not described on their website. I guess they expect you to access from your iPhone or maybe there is a preset on the Japanese edition. If you want to try it from your Safari browser, go to

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

First iPhone 3G Selling at 3PM Thursday, PDT

The first iPhone that will be sold to public should happen at 3pm Thursday, Pacific Time. This will be in Japan which is actually 7am Friday, Tokyo local time.

Reports state that by early afternoon here in California, there were more than 50 people in line at the SoftBank Omotesando store, the only location starting iPhone sales at 7am in Japan. Other stores are scheduled for noon on the same day.

Interestingly, the iPhone is expected to be available at virtually all stores that sell cell phones, according to SoftBank's announcement. In Japan, cell phones are usually sold through "channel stores", most of them being an electric appliance store, which exists in every city throughout the country.

Here are some links to iPhone websites or sites that may potentially report the initial launch in Japan:

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Why the iPhone will not have a big hit in Japan"

Few reasons why iPhone 3G will not be a hit in Japan:

  • Lack of "1seg"
    The digital TV transition is not an issue only in the U.S. but also in Japan. However, in Japan, the transition is near completion and a service called "one-segment" allows digital broadcasts viewable on mobile devices. Did you think AQUOS was all about huge flat-panel TVs? See the AQUOS mobile phone. BTW, SoftBank is the main carrier for this phone which also is for the iPhone.

  • Lack of physical keypad
    Japanese is among the many other language groups forced to use the typical QWERTY keyboard on computers. There are thousands of unique characters compared to the relatively simple 26-alphabet English; although many are stuck with it, QWERTY never makes sense as an input method. Now, many, especially young ones, in Japan are finding that the 10-key pads on the phones are actually easy to use combined with technologies such as T9. It's unbelievable but true.

  • Lack of "Emoji" (A set of emoticons on Japanese mobile phones)
    This is just an assumption, but I don't think the iPhone will include these characters. Although these are just emoticons, for the young Japanese, it is part of their language culture and they use intensely. I mean really intensely. A sample from SoftBank.
    Left-double-quote + Paper Emoji (part of the rock-scissors-paper collection) =  is supposed to look like a waving hand meaning good-bye.

  • Lack of "Osaifu-Keitai"
    Until a few years ago, Japan seemed to be behind in payment system infrastructure. The use of credit cards were just not part of Japanese people's life. But they did make a big leap and went way ahead. With a mobile phone, you can buy a soda from a vending machine as well as use it as a boarding pass for your flight to Tokyo. You think that's crazy? Well, they are!

  • Total lack of "cuteness"
    Japanese females are all about cute stuff. The iPhone just won't appeal to them. It's not cute...

The mobile phone market in Japan is very unique. You won't see Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, models seen in the U.S., but see NEC, Sanyo, Panasonic, Sony, everything only released in Japan. The expectations are different, so obviously the available features are too along with the culture entirely. Apple is targeting consumers first which is smart, but that has been the case in Japan and the iPhone is just not appealing. "It just won't work."

I am saying that the iPhone 3G July 11th edition won't be a hit in Japan. It may still have a small sales. Furthermore, this is just my opinion. So don't complain if you don't like it.

Hold Off on Blu-ray Just Yet

Nowadays, 1TB hard-drives are common consumer products. Thanks for the PMR technology researched by Tohoku University of Japan in 1976 and Toshiba applying this to HDD in 2004.

The same university now came up with a technology to increase the capacity of the current CD-ROM and DVD by 9 times. (The paper is not available in English on their website yet. See the announcement on Optics Express.) That means a single layer 4.7GB DVD can now potentially hold 42GB of data; way more than Blu-ray's 25GB capacity.

Okay, what do we name this? DVD, DVD-?, DVD+?... oh HD-DVD, no it died... Got it, DVD-KungFusion! No body beats me this time!

Toshiba and Sony, I suggest both parties to join the DVD-KF alliance. Thank you.

Japan to Realize "Minority Report"

Do you remember the Spielberg movie "Minority Report"? The tag line was:

What would you do if you were accused of a murder, you had not committed... yet?

Obviously a science-fiction movie in the U.S. is not the case in Japan. The Japanese government recently (June 11th) announced that it will put a budget for 2009 to research and implement a "crime notification system". No, it's not a system that alerts you when a crime is committed. It's a system that detects and alerts before the crime! A prevention system like the movie!

Did the Japanese find these people with the ability to foresee the future? No. The technology is to scan the Internet for any signs of heavy crime like murderer including suicide.

Hey, if you are visiting Japan, be careful what you mention in your emails or posts on the web...

CNET Japan: 総務省がネットの犯行予告を自動検知するシステム開発に着手

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ultimate Smooth Surface, Form Changing Car

I like this concept. Yes, we all need to break out of the shell and have more freedom in thinking.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leopard Update: 10.5.3 Released

Apple has finally released Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.3. Interestingly, this update adds a feature which you can sync your Address Book with Google Contacts; contact information in your Gmail account.

The catch is, however, that you need an iPhone to use this feature. I really wonder why this is the case. Technical reasons? I don't think so. Apple probably wants to sell you an iPhone if you don't have one yet, because you want to sync your Address Book with Google Contacts so bad...

And, don't get too excited. This does not sync iCal and Google Calendar. That's a third party's job.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pandora Radio - Free & Clean Online Radio

Many may already know, but I recently discovered a cool Internet radio station. It's "my station"!

Ok, so what this is is...
Pandora Radio has a huge database of music from all genre which each music is carefully analyzied by "The Music Genome Project". This database is then used to find music of your preference. "Doesn't sound anything new", you say?

True, other music services usually has "recommendation" features, but this analysis is beyond genre, artist names or the looks of the band. Also, it's very quick to get started. Just search one song by an artist name and it will start to play music from various artists like a radio station. Then you can give "thumbs up" to selections that you liked. Another great thing is, you can create as many "stations" as you like. So the music selection is NOT from all of your favorite songs mixed together, but you can create different flavors of your preference. You might like country and alternatives, but that doesn't mean you want to listen to both mixed together all the time, right?

Pandora has a very simple and clean interface. I find the selections by Pandora very appealing and helps me find artists that I did not know, yet sounds that matches my taste. Give it a try, or listen to my stations!

Note: Pandora uses Adobe Flash and your account information is stored there. Information stored in Flash seems to be shared across all users and browsers on the computer so be sure to sign out if you want to keep your information private.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"iPhone is going to dominate the mobile phone market."

I have to say, iPhone is going to dominate the mobile phone market.

Apple, today, announced the iPhone SDK which allows developers to create native applications. They also announced that in the next iPhone software release, it would be enterprise compatible by supporting Microsoft Exchange and Cisco IPsec VPN. This will be all built-in to the iPhone software, available by default.

Now, all this with the proven design of the iPhone hardware/software/user interface, what device could possibly beat the iPhone?

Personally, for the general public, enterprise, I think the Exchange support was an unexpected surprise. This probably is going to easily push iPhone share at a sky rocketing degree. I see many asking IT for an iPhone and you can really feel the demand. I also hear IT usually saying no to this, but they have no reason to do that anymore.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Louis Vuitton Sells Fresh Roses (with monogram)

Louis Vuitton is selling fresh roses with the monogram print on it. No kidding...

Unfortunately, this is sold only in Japan. But in case that's no problem for you:

Sold at Louis Vuitton stores in Tokyo
Available thru 3/13 and 3/16/2008

For details, go to Louis Vuitton's website and navigate to the Japanese store.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

GrandCentral Up-to-dates

As a "telecommunication 2.0" preacher, here are some updates regarding to Google's telephony service, "GrandCentral".

Click2Call Has Been Alive

I posted earlier that Click2Call may have been dropped, but Vincent@GrandCentral quickly posted a comment that it was not the case. And true, I am still able to use this feature; it may just have been a glitch.

Another thing was the lack of documentation regarding Click2Call. It doesn't mention this name, but it's now described in the help.

Forwarding Number Can Be Shared

Finally something new! One inconvenience was that a forwarding number could only be activated with one account, or one GC number. But now, a forwarding number can be used on multiple accounts, according to GC Blog.

My roommate and I each have a GC number. We want to forward that to the same home phone that we share.
Before, this was not possible, but now it's allowed.

My wife and I each had a GC number and was impacted by this limitation so I really have to try this out.

Other Help Documentation Updates

Some articles seems to be added in the help center including mentions about iPhone. This is good. At least this confirms that Goolge is putting some effort to make GC compatible with iPhone.

Although minor, it's good to see some updates so that we know Google is not ditching services after they acquire them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Google Involved in Trans-Pacific Cable Construction

Google is a member of a consortium for constructing a new trans-pacific cable system named "Unity". This 10,000km cable system, connecting Tokyo and LA, has a capacity of up to 7.68 Tbps and is estimated to cost US$300 million. It's expected to be in operation by early 2010.

According to KDDI, a member of this consortium and a tier-1 provider in Japan, each member of the consortium will individually operate a fiber pair. Wow! So, Google is probably going to have its very own 960 Gbps hard link between its two offices across the pacific. I wonder what Google is going to do with this. Hopefully it's not just for TelePresence...

Interesting how a software company like Google can suddenly get deeply involved in a network infrastructure business. Of course this is nothing new; Wi-Fi access is another one Google is involved it and potentially wireless mobile services. More reasons for telcos to get scared of software giants.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Apple Drops Xserve RAID

If you follow the link above, you will see for yourself.

No, this is no interest for the general public, but Apple dropped their Xserve RAID. Instead, they updated their Xsan software and partnered with Promise for the RAID hardware.

(RAID is a technology that brings big storage space and high performance for server use. This news means that we can no longer buy this hardware as an Apple brand, in which Apple was never popular in this field anyways...)

I was wondering how far Apple would go with their server hardware business and I think Apple has made the right choice of depending on a 3rd party. Although, I don't know if Promise was the right one to partner with... BTW, the Promise RAID is nothing compared to Apple's Xserve RAID, designwise for sure...

Good bye, Apple Xserver RAID.
Hello, Promise RAID...

Monday, January 21, 2008

iTunes Rental Hack? (Watch beyond expiry...)

Another major product that Apple released at Macworld was the expected iTunes Movie Rentals. Very simple service that probably many would love.

  • Rent movies from $2.99
  • Nothing to install or learn; same as buying a movie
    Although, you do need the latest iTunes which should automatically update
  • Expires 24 hours after start, 30 days to start watching
  • You can start watching with a 30 seconds lead download
  • Take it with you on your iPods
  • Downloaded movie is removed after expiry

As many are pointing out, 24 hours it too short to complete a movie. Especially if you are interrupted for any reason right after you started playing a rented movie, you probably won't be able to finish it. It would be nice to have at least 48 hours, maybe 72; Apple, please?

But I found out that this may not be all true. It seems like you can play a rented movie up to 30 days even after you started playing it. Is this just a tip that I am pointing out? Or is it a hack? Maybe a bug? I am not sure, but let me explain what happened.

My wife and I were sick and we didn't want to go out so we thought it would be a good excuse to test out the iTunes Movie Rentals instead of going to Blockbuster or wait for Netflix to send us another DVD. So we went on the iTunes Store and decided to rent a comedy called "A Guy Thing". (You didn't like this movie? Well, we are not discussing that here!)

After a few minutes of lead downloading (we were preparing our drinks and popcorns), the movie was probably already 20% downloaded. We started playing it and it was perfectly smooth, good resolution, enough enjoyable on our new 20-inch iMac. (Oh, when did I secretly switch to a Mac? I'm not discussing that here either!) Of course, when we first started downloading the movie, it had a comment stating "Expires in 30 days". After watching the movie, it said "Expires in 22 hours" in red. And most people would probably forget about the movie they rented and iTunes would probably remove the downloaded file to keep your hard disk clean. You, Apple and Hollywood studios are all happy now.

But, I spent $2.99! And it was my first time to buy (not really BUYing, but renting) a movie from iTunes; I got to put this on my iPhone and carry it around at least for 22 hours and be cool! I noticed that when you put your rented movie on your portable player, it removes it from your computer. I guess Apple/Hollywood does not want you to be playing the movies at more than one location at the same time. How different they treat movies compared to musics! Anyways, when I MOVED the movie to my iPhone, it showed up in the Videos section with a comment "Exp. in 29 days". I though it would show the hours remaining as it did on my Mac. Wait a minute, does this mean what I think it means?

So, I decided not to sync my iPhone nor play this movie for 22 hours. The next day, I played the movie on my iPhone and sure enough, it started the 24 hours count down from that point. Right now, it says "Exp. in 9 Hrs" on the iPhone which will mean this movie was available for 48 hours.

Now, what happens if I sync my iPhone with iTunes? Interestingly, it is still available on my iPhone, although iTunes reports that there are no rented movie to sync!

Conclusion. If this is how Apple designed it, the 30 days countdown in which you need to start playing the movie after download is 30 days no matter what. However, the 24 hours expiry countdown that starts when you play the movie is kept separate from your computer (iTunes) and your portable player. So, if you are not able to finish your movie after start watching it and think you cannot finish it within 24 hours, sync it to your iPod as soon as possible and don't play it. Once you have enough time to finish the movie, resume on your iPod. Small screen, but you won't have to trash your money totally.

One note is that I have tried this only once since I only rented a movie once. If anyone can confirm this behavior, it's probably a fact rather then a speculation. Let's see what people has to say about this.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

iPhone Update 1.1.3 (Love the new Maps)

Apple released the long awaited iPhone update 1.1.3 at Macworld. They call it the January '08 update. Main features are:

  • Enhanced Google Maps app
  • Customizable home screen
  • Works with iTunes Movie Rentals
  • Mail app compatible with IMAP Gmail
  • other minor updates
Features that were not realized:
  • Copy/cut and paste
  • Video shooting with built-in camera
  • and some other expectations

Steve Jobs seemed to want to impress everyone with the enhanced Maps app and so I was. It now has the ability to locate where you are. Click on the reticle looking icon on the bottom-left in the Maps app. The map will move to your location and zoom in. Since this technology uses not only cell towers but Wi-Fi access points (a Skyhook service; although you need not to know anything about it) as well, you may want to turn on Wi-Fi in your iPhone Settings.

I am not using this feature quite a lot and I like it. It works very well; at least in San Francisco. With Wi-Fi on, I get my location within a couple seconds which is way faster than a handy GPS. The accuracy is within a half block range which again a handy GPS won't provide in a jungle of buildings. I even drove up to a residential area in Pacifica (relatively rough terrain) and it was pin-point accurate. Although I believe this is not the case throughout the U.S. yet, it is amazing. Along with the traffic information it shows over lapping on the maps, iPhone is a strongly recommended mobile device in the Bay Area for sure; or at least an iPod touch as it can do almost the same with the latest release.

It was interesting to see many power users just went on installing the iPhone update without much hesitation; people used to wait at least for a week just to be sure of any early reports of critical bugs or other issues. I myself too waiting only a couple days this time. I guess the update being released at Macworld, power users cannot not install this right away...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

GrandCentral Disables Click2Call?

It seems that Click2Call has been disabled at GrandCentral.

This is one of the appealing feature where you can make a call directly from there online address book. When you hit CALL on the address book, it will call both yours and the other party's phone and then bridge the calls.

When I tried to use this feature today, it did not work. I looked at the help website which now seems to be migrated to Google Help, there is not mentioning about the Click2Call feature.

If they don't bring this feature back, this is very disappointing. I can't preach about this service anymore.