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back to article Japan mobe operators muscle in on NFC tap-cash

Japan's three dominant mobile operators – DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank – have banded together to ensure customers can transition from the proprietary FeliCa to the standard NFC payments. The move apes that of operators around the world, who have realised that if they're going to prevent Google – and perhaps Apple – from dominating …

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Banded together

But have they banded together to the extent that you can send an SMS (aka "SkyMail") from one network to another yet? The standard reply to that sort of question has always been something like "no, we don't need to, SMS is for foreigners, we Japanese use e-mail" so it's good to see the Japan operators gradually moving away from their Galapagos mentality.

Sadly, a lot of the credit for that has to go to Apple, who were bold and assertive enough to demand to sell their products without the Japanese operators dictating terms and functionality. Contrast with Nokia, who behaved a bit like a nervous, apologetic, uninvited guest when trying to break into that market. I remember trying to get a Nokia on contract at DoCoMo. The sales assistant said "don't use foreign phones, they're all inferior to Japanese phones" even though many of the new wave of Japanese smartphones at that time were running Symbian (underneath a decent UI, which is how Symbian was designed to be used.)

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Devil

The question remains, though: why do you need SMS (and MMS) when you've got email perfectly integrated into every phone? Thanks to this, even with the cheapest low-end phone (i.e. not a smartphone) you can not just email every other Japanese phone but also every email address in the world.

It wasn't until I went to Japan and acquired a Softbank phone that I realized how superfluous and unnecessary SMS was. Why should I be paying my provider in Europe for every SMS sent when, under a system like the Japanese one, everyone has email on their phone? (and you just pay for the very small amounts of bandwidth these emails consume).

Who is really backwards here? Why should the Japanese adopt a bad and ageing system when they have made better, future-oriented choices from the outset?

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Flame

>>"no, we don't need to, SMS is for foreigners, we Japanese use e-mail"

Yes, its all down to the "gaijin" issue. Not the fact that SMS is totally unsuited to Japanese/the Japanese market.

>>so it's good to see the Japan operators gradually moving away

>>from their Galapagos mentality.

Eh? You are one of those people that come to Japan and think you know better than everyone else right? The government is bad, the working conditions are bad blah blah right?

>>Sadly, a lot of the credit for that has to go to Apple,

How? The iphone is only on softbank. Android and feature phones far outsell any of Apples products. The only people I have seen locally with iPhones have been English teachers.

>> Japanese operators dictating terms and functionality.

Operator. Softbank is the only carrier with the iphone. DoCoMo etc are all happy to carry the Galaxy etc because they can ship their messaging clients etc.

>> "don't use foreign phones, they're all inferior to Japanese phones" even though

So the Japanese aren't allowed to prefer their own (AU, DoCoMo etc seem to sell an awful lot of Korean phones though).

>>Japanese smartphones at that time were running Symbian

Japanese feature phones still do run Symbian. To call the UIs the carriers ship "decent" just shows how ignorant you are. The UIs are awful. The Japanese love them though,.. hence carriers retro fitting them onto smart phones.

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Anonymous Coward

>>so it's good to see the Japan operators gradually moving away

>>from their Galapagos mentality.

>>>Eh? You are one of those people that come to Japan and think you know better than everyone >>>else right? The government is bad, the working conditions are bad blah blah right?

And you think the Japanese government is any good?

>>Sadly, a lot of the credit for that has to go to Apple,

>>>How? The iphone is only on softbank. Android and feature phones far outsell any of Apples products. The only people I have seen locally with iPhones have been English teachers.

Where do you live? In an eikaiwa? loads of people i see have an iphone. try going out for a change. 4s is on AU now.

And apple were responsible for breaking the fascist carrier mentality of "japan only" handsets (which had awful "japanified" UI). google followed up with the KO and now i see these two platforms *everywhere*.

it is also now possible to use unlocked foreign phones with mvno sims. choice is finally coming here, but the charges are still the world's most expensive!

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The only people I have seen locally with iPhones have been English teachers.

It sounds like the only people you *know* are English teachers. I had perhaps a dozen Japanese (non-English speaking) friends who snapped up the iPhone.

>Eh? You are one of those people that come to Japan and think you know better than everyone else right? The government is bad, the working conditions are bad blah blah right?

No, I see things realistically rather than through J-fanboy eyes. My working conditions were fantastic, and I had a great 8 years. Only English teachers complain about the working conditions it seems.

>Not the fact that SMS is totally unsuited to Japanese/the Japanese market.

You seem to be assuming that Japanese people only want to communicate with other Japanese people and only on Japanese networks. Hence Galapagos... thanks for proving my point.

>To call the UIs the carriers ship "decent" just shows how ignorant you are.

Gee, thanks pal. They were decent in 2004 which is the era I was talking about. Were you in Japan then?

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Interoperability

The Japanese mobile e-mail system is great. I used it for 8 years. But when Japan adopted 3G it had the opportunity to hook up with networks all over the world- convenient for visitors to Japan and Japanese visitors to other countries. But international interoperability isn't really Japan's bag. An example is ATMs. Japanese Visa card holders can draw cash from any Visa machine in the world, but in Japan, only Japanese-issued Visa cards can be used to obtain cash (that has improved somewhat it recent years though when 7-Eleven started offering international withdrawals.) I was able to get cash on my UK Visa card in a tiny village in the northern Thai countryside, but not on a major shopping street in Tokyo.

Yet another example is Yahoo!!!! If you have a Yahoo account you can access any international Yahoo site, and its services, in the world.. except for www.yahoo.co.jp, which requires a unique membership. Japan's main social networking site, Mixi, requires all subscribers to have a Japanese mobile phone account. It adopted this policy when it realised that it was becoming popular with foreigners wishing to make Japanese friends.

A (Japanese) friend of mine, while explaining Japan's island mentality to me, once said it's helpful to picture the entire population of Japan standing on Japan's shores, linking arms and facing inland.

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Anonymous Coward

Felica not going away

Not sure where you read "transition", must have been lost in translation.

NFC in Japan will remain with FeliCa since they have a huge base already. They're not about to rip up millions of readers and infrastructure.

What the carriers can actually do is adopt the NFC ISO 14443 Type A and B standard AS WELL, so their customers can also use their mobiles with the three systems, thus supporting payment abroad.

Last but not least, NFC in Japan is not controlled by mobile companies. It's in the hands of the train companies, who already use FeliCa extensively.

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Anonymous Coward

What's wrong with FeliCa?

If it ain't broke...

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If it ain't broke...

...Fix it so WE can make money, not Google et al.

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Meh

...

1 - you can get an AU iphone now. Not that you'd want to because crapple have decided that no one needs a useful phone, just a shiny toy.

2 - my 5 year old phone has been usable as a train ticket. None of the rest of the world seems to believe this.

3 - I _HATE_ SMS and have yet to receive one that isn't spam.

I do like the DoCoMo network having a meltdown though...

Oh, and just to throw a spanner in the works, enterprising employees of KDDI AU sold my keitai address to japanese spammers at least twice.

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