KDDI accelerates smartphone shift, stays mum on iPhone

Japan's second-largest mobile operator announced new smartphones and a cheaper pricing plan to rekindle subscriber interest

KDDI, Japan's second-largest mobile operator, on Monday announced a new range of smartphones, accompanying services, and a low-cost pricing plan, but stayed mum on whether it would offer Apple's new iPhone next year.

The Tokyo-based company, which runs the "au" mobile network, has been slower than its competitors to introduce advanced phones, and has seen its share of new subscribers fall as a result. Its lead over Softbank, the third largest operator, has dwindled as the upstart operator piled on contracts through its low-cost plans and exclusive sales of Apple's iPhone and iPad line on its network.

KDDI President Takashi Tanaka repeatedly declined to comment on local news reports that his company would soon offer the iPhone on its own network, but he said KDDI would accelerate its shift into smartphones that offer high-speed Internet through its WiMax service, a high-speed, long-range wireless Internet technology. KDDI had success with the previous generation of phones by offering designer brands and other features, and has lagged domestic rivals in moving to higher-specification models.

"In a few years, our share of traditional phones will be barely 30 percent, perhaps 20 percent. Once our customers try using the Internet with smartphones they can't really go back," Tanaka told reporters at a press conference in central Tokyo.

The new lineup includes the HTC EVO 3D and Motorola Photon, also available internationally, plus several handsets from local manufacturers like Fujitsu and Sharp that have technologies aimed at the Japanese market. Fujitsu's Arrows Z phone has a special interface for entering Japanese characters drawn by hand on the touchscreen, while a smartphone from Sharp's Aquos line is equipped with a sub-screen that lets users check the time and operate its music player without turning on the main display and draining battery life.

Tanaka also announced a new pricing plan that gives users unlimited free calls at certain times on the au network for 980 yen (US$13) per month. The plan is almost identical to one that Softbank has been offering for years.

KDDI's subscriber lead over its rival has steadily diminished in recent years. In June, 2008, the month Softbank began selling the original iPhone, KDDI had about 30 million subscribers to Softbank's 19 million, while at the end of last month it had 33.5 million to Softbank's 26.6 million, according to data from Japan's Telecommunications Carriers Association. NTT DoCoMo remains the number one operator with about 58.8 million subscribers.

KDDI is also emphasizing services on its high-speed WiMax network. On Monday it announced video calls over Skype would be available on a specially designed application, as well as a service to automatically save pictures taken with phones online and deliver them to computers through a tie-up with Eye-Fi, the maker of wireless-enabled memory cards.

The new phones and services will be available by the end of this year.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobilesmartphonesconsumer electronicsKDDI

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Bitdefender’s best-in-class security solutions have been awarded Product of the Year. Get cybersecurity that 500 MILLION users already have and trust!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?