iPad 3G and Pocket WiFi alternatives in Japan

So the pricing for the iPad in Japan are out. It seems even devices sold at the Apple Stores will be SIM-locked to Softbank, breaking many hopes of seeing DoCoMo come into the picture and shaking things up a little.

This has definitely not changed my thoughts on the device, it would very much piss me off to pay twice for 2 iPhone and iPad data plans.

This morning, my buddy @kuriburi who is more enthusiastic than I am, called me from the line at the Softbank shop to discuss the situation. Interestingly enough, people were fleeing in droves after receiving the pamphlet describing the full pricing… We entertained the thought that it might be more interesting to buy a WiFi version and get a Pocket WiFi device from data plan specialist eMobile.

@kuriburi left the Softbank line and we started gathering data from the web:

And after crunching numbers here are the results, first for the iPad 64GB version:

And for the iPad 32GB version:

It still seems the Softbank’s default option with integrated 3G is very aggressively priced compared to the competition. But if you can limit yourself to less than 300MB of 3G data per month, you can save up to ¥9.000 on the 32GB iPad over the 2 years contract period. Not much for sure, but some people might be interested…

Note: we have not taken into account the eMobile Super Light data plan because a 3MB/month data plan will not let you do anything but access email (and then without pictures) which does not count as a full usage of the device.

Note 2: here’s a link to the spreadsheet, if you see anything wrong with the data please notify me in the comments.

My thoughts on the iPad…

…because everyone has their own. They could be resumed to: I want! I want! I want! I want!

It’s shiny, it’s thin, it looks good… Like all my favorite Apple stuff. I don’t even care if it has lousy WiFi — I live in a 50m² apartment with only 2 rooms separated by wooden walls, I am never more than 5m away from my Time Capsule.

But will I get one? I’m not so sure. In the current set of things, probably not. This is why:

  1. As I said earlier, my home is small — albeit nice and cosy — as most people in Tokyo who are not on expatriate expense accounts. My main computer is a MacBook Pro which sits at all time on the arm rest of my sofa: there is no table/desk to put it.
    So buying an iPad would mean relegating the MacBook Pro to a closet until I need it for higher level tasks — such as dumping photos into Aperture or writing code for home projects… Putting a ¥200.000 laptop in a closet feels wrong, but maybe I could live with it.

This is a coffee table, not a desk…

  1. I spend 3h of every weekday commuting to and back from work. I could really see myself enjoying movies, TV shows, my feed reader and internet/email on an iPad much more than on my iPhone as I do now. However, there is no way in hell I would ever pay another ¥4000 or so to Softbank for an unlimited 3G connection in addition to the one tied to my iPhone. You can only bleed your customers so much…

So unless the coming weeks see an announcement (I’m thinking iPhone 4.0 tonight) by Apple or Softbank of either tethering your iPhone to your iPad or an extra iPad 3G SIM at ¥500 for iPhone owners, I don’t think I will buy the iPad.

WWDC Keynote on MacBidouille.com with App Engine

No bandwidth, no servers, no infrastructure, no money required. Just a bit of python and a tad of javascript and you can live stream an event to 10.000 people concurrently (theoretic figure, Analytics said the live-blog site had 30.000 visits in all) within Google App Engine‘s free quotas.

keynote requests per second

This is the graph taken from my App Engine dashboard the morning after the WWDC’09 Keynote after MacBidouille.com live-blogged the event in French through my application. We always had scaling problems while Google’s infrastructure was in beta and we were bound by smallish quotas, but since they opened fully the service a couple months ago, the sky is the limit.

Half-assed features on Softbank iPhone

I’m getting reports from my friends with iPhones here in Japan, since I still haven’t gone crazy and taken one as a second phone. Some features have been completely borked by Softbank:

  • There’s no + for international calls. Apparently, Softbank’s network does not support the + (country code) (your number) that is industry standard on all modern phones. Instead, they customize their keitais, which are manufactured to Softbank’s specs by the nicely compliant Japanese manufacturers, to replace the plus sign with a special prefix: 010.
  • The mail address @i.softbank.jp is not “push-compatible”. This means you have to initiate a mail check to see if there is mail waiting, unlike @me.com mail which pushes the mails straight to your phone through the network without actual polling on your part.
    Softbank has implemented a sort of fake notification which must be a background process continually polling the server for new mails, showing the butt-ugly greyed-out fullscreen popup whenever you receive a message. Of course, there is no chime nor vibration hinting to a new event while the phone is in your pocket, making that mail address basically useless…

I hope Softbank gets its act together before I need to change phones. Sadly, even after knowing all these caveats, I still want one…

iPhone in Japan: it’s the new Wii

So people have been lined up in front of the flagship Softbank shop in Omotesando since Monday, all reservations that were taken in the first days after announcement have been canceled and now my friend Jon tells me that he called the main Softbank shop in Kumagaya, Saitama-ken and they are having a raffle for what will probably be 5 measly units on Friday.

japanese crowd can be crazy

If you want to get an iPhone here in Japan, you’d better start tossing a lot of 5円 coins at the local shinto shrine to buff up on luck and scour the raffles every weekend arount the countryside as we all did 2 years ago during the darkest times of Wii hunting.

Note: the photo is one of mine at Meiji shrine for New Year, that’s the image that comes to mind when I think about a crowd in Japan…

Update: Jon won the lottery and got his iPhone, only problem is Softbank’s servers are on their knees and they couldn’t activate his phone. It’s that crazy…

iPhone pricing details announced officially

A press release just appeared on Softbank’s website and suddenly Twitter went ablaze: the official pricing details for the iPhone have been published.

iphone on softbank

Here’s the lowdown:

  • 7,280円 per month for basic white plan and unlimited data
  • 960円 per month for the 8GB version, 1,440円 per month for the 16GB version (for 24 months)
  • specific email address for [email protected] (normal plans are [email protected])

Of course, these prices are without any calling minutes. I wonder if I’m going to be able to get the iPhone without any plan, activate it and use my corporate Softbank SIM card in it.

WWDC Keynote

Tonight (at least in Japanese time) is Steve Job’s WWDC Keynote. It is widely accepted that he will be announcing the new 3G enabled iPhone and I am secretly hoping he will give us a release date for Japan live from the Moscone West.

These past weeks, I’ve been developing a live-blogging system for my other website to cover the event minute by minute. It’s a challenge to devise a system, both software and hardware-wise, capable of handling the huge loads involved in such a big event. We are expecting more than 50.000 persons to follow the Keynote via MacBidouille.

Until now, all our attempts have failed. But this time, I’m trying something new with an Ajax based interface running on the new Google App Engine platform. It’s been really fun using a new technology, Python, on Google’s own architecture.

I have no idea if this new system will withstand the load this year, especially with the tight quotas in place for the beta phase of App Engine. But I sure hope Steve announces the iPhone launch in Japan starting tomorrow and I’ll take the day-off to rush to the Apple Store in Ginza as soon as it opens…

iPhone on Softbank


2008年6月4日 – ソフトバンクモバイル株式会社


SOFTBANK MOBILE Corp. today announced it has signed an agreement with Apple® to bring the iPhone™ to Japan later this year.

Why am I so happy? Because my corporate phone is a Softbank, so I should legally be able to change my crappy Sharp phone whose battery cannot hold more than 10min of conversation anymore for a snazzy 3G iPhone and still have my company pay for it. :)

Sharing user not for share

sharing only user can\'t shareMac OS X 10.5 is driving me crazy! I’m trying to open an FTP access to my machine for sharing some files with a friend. Obviously I turn to the newly renovated file sharing tab, activate it and open FTP sharing. A new feature of Leopard is a new “Sharing Only” user profile that lets you create users for file sharing that will not be able to login to your machine. So I create one of those and give him access to my share folder.

Now that should be the end of it, 15 seconds to share a folder cleanly and securely with someone else. But no…

Thanks to some crazy security freak somewhere in Cupertino, if you try to FTP to my machine with this Sharing Only user, it won’t share, just give you a stupid error that “this user may not use FTP”. It makes absolutely no sense.