Program similar to Sony's PlayStation Now tiered rental service in the United States
Japanese video game publisher Square Enix announced a new initiative this week, putting some of its most popular games in the hands of mobile device users. The new program, called Dive In, allows users to rent Square Enix titles through a dedicated application and play them on through their Android or iOS tablets and smartphones.
Japanese publishers calling Amazon to task for abusing market position
In addition to its fight with publisher Hachette and UK booksellers, Amazon is also battling a series of Japanese publishers. In the process of launching a new ranking system in the country, Amazon Japan is alienating publishers, giving higher rankings to sellers that pay a larger percentage of income back to Amazon, and also boosting search results of publishers that hold larger back catalogs for sale on the service.
Virtual world to close its doors March 2015, service will continue in United States, Europe
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia announced that it is bringing a close to PlayStation Home in Japan and Asia regions at the end of March 2015. The service was launched as a competitor to Linden Research's Second Life, but was offered for free to any PlayStation 3 owner.
Slim-bezel Sharp Aquos Crystal may arrive in United States tomorrow
Sharp has created two new Aquos smartphones with an extremely minimal bezel, giving the appearance of an edge-to-edge display. The Aquos Crystal and the Aquos Crystal X, with respective 5-inch 720p and a 5.5-inch 1080p displays, will both be going on sale in Japan, with at least one of the devices heading to the United States in the near future.
Waterproofing, higher-resolution Duo Camera in Japan-specific HTC Butterfly J
A new version of the HTC One M8 for the Japanese market has been announced by local carrier KDDI. The HTC J Butterfly manages to hold on to the majority of the One M8's specifications, including its five-inch 1080p display, but stems down the same route as the One E8 in having a plastic body, with the Japan-specific smartphone also having a few more minor changes.
Apple could be key client
Sony has announced plans to invest 35 billion yen, or about $345 million, on scaling up production of image sensors for phones and tablets. Manufacturing of stacked CMOS sensors will increase at two factories in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu; meanwhile, the company is planning to complete work on a factory in northwestern Japan that it bought from Renesas. The hope is to boost wafer output 13 percent to 68,000 per month by August 2015, moving towards a longer-term target of 75,000, itself just a mid-term goal.
iPod continues terminal decline
In addition to its official announcement, Apple has also posted a detailed breakdown of its fiscal Q3 results. "Greater China" -- including Taiwan and Hong Kong -- continued to lead the charge regionally, with its revenue increasing 28 percent year-over-year to $5.935 billion. Europe and Asia-Pacific each advanced 6 percent, to $8.091 billion and $2.161 billion, respectively. Apple's most important market, the Americas, rose 1 percent to $14.577 billion. Global retail numbers were up 1 percent to $4.104 billion.
Service sends out notes after user passes away, cleans up personal data on Internet
Yahoo Japan launched an interesting service this week, one that gives people an option for deleting part of their digital lives once they reach the end of their physical ones. The service, called Yahoo Endings, offers users some basic services like will-writing, but also sends goodbye notes and deletes personal information from Yahoo.
Could reach more regions soon
In Japan, Apple has unexpectedly announced iTunes Pass, a new service based on iOS' Passbook app. People wanting to refill their iTunes Store account can take an iPhone (or iPod touch) into a Japanese Apple Store and buy credit from a clerk, who then scans in the amount via Passbook. The money should be available immediately.
Apple, Disney overcome contract dispute
Disney content is once again available on the Japanese version of the iTunes Store, according to an official statement. That content suddenly disappeared recently, and without explanation. In talking with Variety, though, Disney confirms that "the interruption was due to difficulties negotiating the renewal of the old contract between Apple and Disney Japan. The new contract was signed on Wednesday and both rentals (VoD) and electronic sell-through returned to normal."
Government could oblige carriers to remove locks, allow citizens device freedom
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry of Japan is considering a plan to remove all SIM locks from handsets in the country. Carriers would be obliged to remove the locks, ending a hold on customers that they currently have through current phone discounts. Sources from Jiji Press indicate that the plan was being addressed at a panel of experts earlier this week, with the intent of "drastically" reviewing the guidelines.
Regular AppleCare plan vanishes
Apple is today making major changes to its AppleCare plans for iPhone and iPad buyers. When considering an AppleCare+ plan, shoppers now reportedly have a 60-day window after their iPhone/iPad purchase, instead of the previous 30 days. The one exception to this is in Japan, where the old limit is still in effect.
VAIO Pro, VAIO Fit first notebooks from new VAIO corporation
The first VAIO-branded computers following the sale of Sony's PC business have launched in Japan. The first two devices being sold, the VAIO Pro and the VAIO Fit, appear to be a continuation of earlier devices of the same name, with the design and specifications apparently similar to the original versions launched last year under the control of Sony.
Feature's coverage still expanding
Apple has extended coverage of Maps' Flyover feature to two more locations. The most important of these is the Japanese capital of Tokyo, where people can now see 3D views of scenery like the Tokyo Tower or the Imperial Palace. In the United States, Maps users can toggle Flyover for the canyons of Utah's Zion National Park.
Includes separate iMovie, iBooks workshops
Apple has opened registration for the 2014 edition of its annual Apple Camps. The program is aimed at teaching creative projects to kids aged 8 to 12 while simultaneously promoting Apple products. This year, two sets of three-day workshops are available: one is dedicated to creating a short film using iMovie and the iPad version of GarageBand, while the other involves producing an interactive book using iBooks Author and illustrations done on an iPad.
Latest Tokyo store draws unusual large crowd, features metal-and-glass spiral staircase
Tokyo, Japan's latest Apple Store opened on Friday (local time) in much the same way most other Apple Stores debut -- free commemorative T-shirts, a large lineup of eager buyers waiting to get in (a rarer sight in Japan than in North America), extensive press coverage. The store in Omotesando, however, was a little different: the T-shirts featured a new, leafy Apple logo that may or may not be used again, and Apple's new Senior Vice President of Retail, Dame Angela Ahrendts, was among the attendees.
Brushed aluminum staircase, 'green curtain' of foliage among highlights
A new video posted to its official YouTube channel has given interested viewers a sneak peak at one of the company's latest stores, ahead of its opening in Omotesando, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. The store, which shares the latest Apple layout "design language" with other recent stores such as the Stanford 2 in California, is roughly twice as tall as the Stanford store, using giant glass panes to hold a thin aluminum roof, and also offers a second floor which until now has been under wraps.
Portable SIM provides connection, acts as authentication
Japanese carrier Docomo is looking to separate SIM cards from smartphones and tablets in the future, by placing them inside wearable devices. A prototype Portable SIM device created by the carrier allows mobile devices to use its connection, which could potentially be used as a form of authentication for multiple devices, as well as providing a level of proximity-based security.
Will feature a 'green curtain' of vines to help cool store
In preparation for its June 13 grand opening, the newest Apple Store in Japan -- and the first since 2006 -- has taken the wraps off its frontage, revealing all-glass walls on three sides of the building, an all-glass staircase leading below ground, and the general design language first seen in the "Stanford 2" Apple Store in California. The back side of the building, made of concrete, has been used to grow a "green curtain" of vines that will help naturally cool the building, as that wall get most of the direct sunlight exposure during the day.
Pepper will go on sale in Japanese Softbank stores from February
Softbank, is planning to put a humanoid robot on sale from next year. Jointly developed with NAO creators Aldebaran Robotics, Pepper is said to be able to interact with others, with its various sensors and voice recognition allowing it to recognize gestures and speech, while analyzing vocal tone and reading expressions also allows it to recognize emotions.
Shipping ending in Japan following US in January, European PSP sales continue
Sony is retiring the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in Japan after nine and a half years of sale in the country, effectively signaling the oncoming end of the console's life. Shipments of the handheld game console will cease in Japan later this month, with the company instead continuing to push for sales of its successor, the PlayStation Vita.
'Green curtain' will take up one side of latest retail store, save energy
Apple's latest Japanese Apple Store, the Omotesando location in Tokyo, may feature a "green curtain" of vines covering one side of the building in an effort to reduce cooling costs. The foliage will cover a majority of an all-glass wall, and block sunlight from heating the interior of the building -- which will reduce the cost and need for air conditioning to keep the space cool, according to Mac Otakara.
Discounts knock just $20-30 off prices
Apple has extended discounts to the iPad at its educational store. The cuts are relatively modest, in the US only knocking $20 off of the cost of the Mini, Retina Mini, and fourth-generation iPad, plus $30 off of the iPad Air. That puts 16GB Wi-Fi models of the tablets at $279, $379/$379 and $469, respectively.
Japan release date set as August 14 for Dynasty Warrior style game
A release date for Tecmo Koei's Hyrule Warriors has been published, according to Siliconera. The Wii U game takes characters from classic Nintendo series The Legend of Zelda and puts them in combat series that mimics the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Information regarding the story and characters were released in a magazine, on top of the August 14 release date for Japan.
Demand for sales ban and high royalties over SEPs deemed illegal
Samsung, which has often used Standards-Essential Patents (SEPs) or patents purchased from other companies in an effort to mount some kind of countersuit in cases where Apple has accused the Galaxy maker of stealing Apple's technology, was found guilty again in a Japanese appeals court of illegally using SEPs as legal weapons and not honoring its obligation under Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) guidelines.
Gaming company's first app available on select phones, limited to single carrier
Nintendo has announced that it is releasing a 3DS tethering application for Android tomorrow in Japan. The app surfaces as one of the first expansions by the gaming company after posting lower than expected numbers in its most recent financial report. While the free app isn't one that many users wanted to see, it gives credence to the idea that Nintendo is trying to look to other avenues to help rebuild its brand.
Follows deal with top carrier NTT DoCoMo in September
Less than nine months after finally signing the country's largest carrier, Apple is now selling one out of every three smartphones in Japan, according to shipment data from Japan-based MM Research Institute. Thanks to the deal with NTT DoCoMo, Apple now has more than 36 percent of the entire Japanese cellphone market, and is the only country in which Apple handily outsells the combined cellphone output of its rival Samsung.
Strict gun laws in Japan lead to first 3D printed firearm arrest after video postings
A 27-year-old man was arrested in Japan, stemming from ownership of five firearms he created with a 3D printer, two of which were said to be functional and lethal, according to broadcaster NHK. Yoshitomo Imura, an employee of the Shonan Institute of Technology in Fujisawa in Kawasaki Prefecture, was arrested on illegal weapons possession after posting videos online showing him operating the firearms.
Smaller display, body in ZL2, keeps processor, RAM, rear camera
Sony has launched the follow-up to its Xperia ZL in Japan. Where the original effectively copied the Xperia Z and slimmed the device down, the Xperia ZL2 performs a similar trick with the Xperia Z2, switching out the 5.2-inch 1080p display for a 5-inch version in a smaller body, but still manages to keep similar specifications to its full-size counterpart.
LG 5.5-inch panel certified as QHD, likely to appear in LG G3
LG has confirmed it is producing a 5.5-inch QHD AH-PS LCD panel for smartphones, and will be using it on its forthcoming flagship device, thought to be the LG G3. At the same time, LG has launched the Isai FL through Japanese carrier KDDI, a smartphone that not only uses the panel, but is also thought to be heavily based on the LG G3's specifications.
Injuries increase 50 percent in 2013 from 2010, 122 incidents over four years
Yahoo Japan reports that the number of smartphone-related injuries while riding a bike or walking has increased, according to the Tokyo Fire Department. In the Tokyo metropolitan area, 36 people were injured in 2013 from smartphone-related accidents, an increase of 50 percent over the 23 reported cases in 2010.
Retail revenues virtually flat
As a part of announcing its second-quarter results, Apple has also posted a detailed breakdown (PDF), exposing further facts. They reveal, for instance, that Apple's iPad revenues dropped 16.4 percent year-over-year, shifting from roughly $8.7 billion to $7.6 billion. The company has typically seen continuous growth for the iPad, but units fell from just under 19.5 million to 16.3 million. Cook later clarified that inventory changes made the drop seem much more dramatic than it actually was in terms of end-user sales.
Bright-colored Polaroid smartphone has 5-inch display, 8-megapixel camera
Polaroid is expanding its range of devices from digital cameras and tablets, to include smartphones for the first time in Japan. The teenager-focused PolaSma, short for "Polaroid Smartphone," has been revealed sporting a 5-inch 960x540-resolution IPS display and what could be described as entry-level specifications inside a bright Cherry Pink, Blueberry Blue, or Lemon Yellow casing.
Could improve image quality, battery life on future devices
Apple is in negotiations with Japan's Renesas Electronics to acquire a unit of the company, says Nikkei. In particular Apple is said to be after Renesas SP Drivers, a joint venture with Sharp and Powerchip that designs chips for smartphone displays. The takeover deal would involve buying up Renesas' 55 percent stake at an estimated price of 50 billion yen, or roughly $479 million.
Samsung mulls appeal
Apple didn't infringe on Samsung data communications patents and won't have to pay any damages, a Tokyo District Court has ruled. Samsung had filed a lawsuit that brought Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPad 2 into the crosshairs. "We are disappointed by the court's decision," an emailed statement from Samsung reads. "Upon a thorough review of the ruling, we will determine which measures to take, including an appeal."
Huawei announces TalkBand B1, unlikely to be released in US
Huawei has announced its upcoming wearable tech device, the TalkBand B1. Described as both a fitness band and Bluetooth headset combined, the band has a removable earpiece that accepts calls, and when used in the band tracks physical activities including sleep. Its 90mAh battery can last up to six days powering the flexible OLED display. The TalkBand B1 is not anticipating release in the US, though will be available in Chinese markets next month, and Japan, the Middle East, Russia and Western Europe in the second quarter of 2014.
Sony starts selling PlayStation 4 in Japan months after US, European launches
Sony has launched the PlayStation 4 game console in Japan, months after shipping it to customers in the United States and Europe. While it has already sold 5.3 million units in other markets when competing against the Xbox One, the launch in Japan will be largely uncontested, with The Verge noting no news of an Xbox One launch in the country has been issued by Microsoft, and the Nintendo's Wii-U continues to sell poorly.
Supporting regions still under a dozen
Apple has brought its two-step verification process to several more countries, the company's support pages show. Until today, only the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand were supported. Now however the list also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain.
Company is responsible for screens in current iPhones
Japan Display, the company currently responsible for manufacturing some of the screens for Apple's iPhone 5c and 5s, are readying an IPO offering to raise $4 billion in capital to expand production capacity and aid in development of future technologies. The company, formed of the display units from Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba and Japanese government backing, currently holds a 17 percent share of small and medium-sized displays in the world market.
Performance artist begins queuing before release announcement
A Japanese blogger decided to line up for the iPhone 6, after being spurned of his chance to be the first person in line for an iPhone 5. Apple fan and performance artist Yoppy donned his iPhone cosplay, and started queuing for the new phone outside of the flagship Apple store in Tokyo, Japan, likely to wait for months before an official announcement will be made about its release by the company.
Direct sales allows Scentee to expand outside of Japan
Consumers worldwide that have been waiting for smell notifications from their iPhone and iPad need wait no longer. Scentee, the gadget that emits aromas, began offering direct sales from their website for English versions of the scent puffing attachment outside of Japan for the first time.
iPod numbers half those shipped last year
In addition to its public announcement, Apple has also published a detailed breakdown (PDF) of its first-quarter results. Significantly, revenue from the Americas actually declined one percent year-over-year to $20.098 billion. This was compensated for by growth in other regions; Europe and Japan were up five and 11 percent (respectively), while "greater" China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) leapt ahead 29 percent to $8.844 billion. The growth was likely spurred by sales of new iPhones and iPads, since mainland China was made a first-tier launch country for the first time in 2013.
Japanese carrier claims market cannot support third mobile operating system
The first consumer Tizen device release has been stalled by Japan's largest carrier over concerns that the Japanese smartphone market cannot sustain a third mobile operating system. Plans by NTT DoCoMo to launch a device in March will now not take place, with the carrier citing a significant lack of overall growth of the market in Japan.
Bags usually highly sought-after
iPad Airs and MacBook Airs were among the contents of the Lucky Bags sold at Japanese Apple Stores this year, reports note. The bags, given away for the New Year, were first announced on December 26th alongside a one-day sale at the Japanese online Apple Store. People had to pay 36,000 yen (about $340) to reserve one, but didn't know what they would contain until they picked them up.
Apple Japan expected to launch 'Lucky Bag' sale starting January 2
Apple may be planning to celebrate the Japanese New Year with offerings of fukubukoro, or "lucky bags" beginning at 8AM local time on Thursday, January 2, two hours earlier than the usual opening time, according to an item on Japanese Mac fan site Otakara. Along with most other retailers, Japan's Apple Stores will offer a "lucky bag" at a present price that contains mystery items worth more than the asking price. In some cases, buyers have received a MacBook Air or an iPad.
BBC adds five free HD channels to high-definition lineup
The BBC will be adding five new channels to its lineup in the United Kingdom tomorrow for Freesat, Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media users. The broadcaster will be adding HD versions of BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, CBBC, and CBeebies to its existing high-definition channel lineup, with the BBC advising that this brings the total subscription-free HD channel range from the corporation to seven. Earlier this year, the BBC revealed it would be shutting down its dedicated 3D channel, due to a lack of viewers.
Apps were previously English-only
Google has updated its Android and iOS Search apps with voice support for French, German, and Japanese. The upgrades let people both speak commands and hear responses in the new languages. Previously, non-English speakers had to type in any search requests.
Demographic skews older, and with more buyers under median income
"Almost half" of the people who bought the iPhone 5c in September and October were people switching from Android phones, particularly ones by Samsung and LG, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. By comparison, some 80 percent of iPhone 5s purchases were by people upgrading from a previous iPhone. Kantar also notes that over 40 percent of 5c buyers were earning less than $49,000 per year, versus roughly 20 percent for the 5s. 5c buyers also tended to skew older, with an average age of 38 instead of the 5s' 34.
Amazon brings video streaming service to Japan
Amazon has now opened up the Japanese version of its Instant Video streaming service, it was revealed today. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new service features more than 26,000 imported movie and television offerings. Rentals for the service start at 100 yen (about $0.98).
New iPhones, NTT DoCoMo contributing factors
The iPhone accounted for 76 percent of Japanese smartphone sales during the month of October, according to Kantar World Panel data. Specific reasons for Apple's dominance are unmentioned, but are likely attributable to two factors. The first is the launch of the iPhone 5s and 5c on September 20th, since model refreshes always cause a surge in Apple sales. The other, though, is the addition of NTT DoCoMo as a carrier.