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Where’s the SoftBank?

July 15th, 2008

Today, I demo’ed the iPhone for my two sections of Introduction to Computers (the iPhone is, after all, a computer–that’s my excuse for showing off), and the students were appropriately wowed. I set up a routine to go over the major features one by one in about 20 minutes. There were a variety of gasps and ‘wow’s at various times, and for the most part, the reaction was very positive. They loved the map feature (it usually is the star attraction), and were appropriately impressed by the iPod music and video features, as well as the browsing and App Store features.Ipint Img

To wind up the presentation, I showed them a game which is mildly interesting to play, but great for showing off: iPint (iTunes link), a game where you use the iPhone’s accelerometer to guide a beer down a bar to the waiting hands of a drinker. When you get to the end, the iPhone simulates a mug of beer filling up, and the liquid sloshes when you turn the phone. Then you put the iPhone’s top edge to your lips and tilt it like you would a glass you are drinking from, and it gives the illusion of drinking beer out of the phone. A good finish, and the classes applauded enthusiastically.

Before each presentation, I wanted to find two SoftBank users in the class; I thought we’d try a three-way call and see the image-and-ringtone presentation when calling, and SoftBank users can call each other for free. SoftBank has some 20% of the Japanese market, so out of 30 students I expected five or six to have SoftBank–more, I thought, as many parents pay for the cell phones and they might want that family free-dialing plan SoftBank offers. So I asked… and got nothing. Most were DoCoMo users, most of the rest Au, and a few were Willcom. Not a single SoftBank user among the lot.

When I asked why, the response was pretty clear: for these students, SoftBank was too expensive. Not the monthly plan–SoftBank’s 980 yen White Plan is about as cheap as plans get–but the per call cost. If you go over your limits, the students told me, it costs 42 yen per minute to call using a SoftBank phone, but other providers have lower rates, such as 28 yen per minute. Or so I was told by these students. The White Plan also has no free minutes.

That works out fine for me, as I don’t do an incredible amount of calling, but it doesn’t work as well for these young kids, who make lots of calls. Still, the lack of a single SoftBank customer among the crowd very much surprised me. An overlooked market for SoftBank?

Addendum: I noticed that the Japanese iPhone commercials–by Apple, not SoftBank–have started showing. SoftBank still peppers the airwaves with their ads, but none for the iPhone.

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  1. July 16th, 2008 at 20:23 | #1

    all my friends with softbank get lots of dropped calls and poor reception especially in subways. I use the docomo. it’s great. their phones suck though. bleh

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