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Vodafone Quitting Japan 169

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-listening-to-your-target-audience dept.
dimension6 writes "Reuters is reporting that Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone operator, is quitting business in Japan. Vodafone has been having a difficult time since they entered the Japanese market, a result of many blunders such as introducing Nokia brick phones where flip-phones are the norm and being slow to adopt 3G technology widely used by its competitors. Vodafone claimed that being part of the most advanced mobile phone market helped boost their sales elsewhere, but few Japanese-market phones have made it to other countries. The Japanese Vodafone division is likely to be bought by Softbank, the largest ISP in Japan."
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Vodafone Quitting Japan

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  • Same goes for Sweden (Score:4, Interesting)

    by d99-sbr (568719) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @05:47AM (#14853081) Journal
    They recently decided to pull out of Sweden too. Margins have become razor thin after voice prices fell to a few cents per minute (/$).
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @05:54AM (#14853091) Homepage Journal
      They recently decided to pull out of Sweden too. Margins have become razor thin after voice prices fell to a few cents per minute (/$).

      I moved my mobile phone accounts from Vodafone over to Optus here an Australia because they kept stuffing me around through their resellers. One reseller which I had an account through was being closed down by Vodafone and it became impossible for me to change my account.

      The cheapest account they were offering me was $15/month. Optus had accounts at $5/month. It was an easy decision.

      They keep trying to offer these deals where you pay $30/month and get (supposedly) more than $100 in calls but this just gives the impression to me that they are only interested in having phone mad teenagers as customers.

    • by Dr. Cody (554864)
      Then why are their advertisements still on TV?
  • Trend? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Kawahee (901497)
    Isn't this a general trend? Western companies have a hard time starting up over in Asia. KFC/Nike/etc have just begun to crack the Chinese markets, so it's no surprise (to me) that other companies have had trouble in Japan.

    Take Microsoft and the Xbox for example. Playstation has had a good reception outside of Japan, but not vice versa.
    • Re:Trend? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by omegashenron (942375)
      Western companies have a hard time starting up over in Asia.

      I agree - however part of the problem is that Western Companies generally don't understand the demographic of their customers, instead they pretend Asia is just like the West eg:

      • Vodafone not on a 3g network or offering a flip phone
      • Original Xbox not offering as many Japanese RPG's as PS2

      It will be interesting to see how XBOX360 fares in Japan when the promised new RPG's come out. At the moment, Gamecube outsells it.

      Western companies need to learn t

      • Re:Trend? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hast (24833)

        Vodafone not on a 3g network or offering a flip phone

        This is incorrect. Vodafone has both a 3G network in Japan (the same they have everywhere else) and several clam-shells on the market.

        Phones do have very different demands on the Japanese market than Eu though. Software crashes is unacceptable to a large part of the market there. It's nowhere near as critical on other markets. OTOH that a phone is large like a small house is not a problem in Japan though. You reguralry see phones there that would be unsel

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Not to worry. You can still use your 3G phone in Japan with Docomo. Docomo started roaming agreement with many countries in the world.
    • Re:Trend? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zarhan (415465)
      Isn't this a general trend? Western companies have a hard time starting up over in Asia. KFC/Nike/etc have just begun to crack the Chinese markets, so it's no surprise (to me) that other companies have had trouble in Japan.

      There is an anedcotal story about how Nokia started selling their phones in China. Originally they just copied their western ad campaings, focusing on individuality, how you can customize your phone with differently colored cases, personalizing software etc, in effect "make this phone lik
      • Re:Trend? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bheer (633842)
        Sales didn't pick up, and they studied the problem, noting that the group mentality in Asia is quite different from the West, where everyone is individualist. So the new campaign went with the idea of "Get our phone - just like everybody else". And the results were much better...

        This potrayal of herd-mind [slashdot.org] (or hive-mind?) Asians on Slashdot has got to be the next big Slashdot meme. While it is true that Asians have historically more community minded that the West, community minded != groupthink. Indeed, give
        • Re:Trend? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by macshit (157376)
          This potrayal of herd-mind (or hive-mind?) Asians on Slashdot has got to be the next big Slashdot meme. While it is true that Asians have historically more community minded that the West, community minded != groupthink.

          Perhaps not, but it's absolutely true that there's a huge group-think thing going on, at least in Japan and Korea (the two countries I'm familiar with). ["Community minded", hahaha, now there's a euphemism for you! As far as I can see, the main factor is an unusually high degree of risk-ave
  • Vodaphone had some real chutzpah, to think they could beat the Japanese on their home turf, in a gadget-oriented market.

    Only Apple has done that in recent memory, and they are hardly "normal".
  • Even though Japan has slowly been losing ground as one of the leading business destinations (mostly to China, Korea, and India), it is still in the top tier of the electronics world, as well as in the banking world. It is unfortunate that business travellers who may have signed up with Vodafone to enjoy guaranteed global access to its networks is now going to lose that guarantee in Japan.

    Vodafone wasn't really making much headway in Japan anyway. Large, clumsy phones designed for Europeans simply don't ji
    • It is unfortunate that business travellers who may have signed up with Vodafone to enjoy guaranteed global access to its networks is now going to lose that guarantee in Japan.

      I'm hoping the opposite will happen. When I was last in Japan, my 3G phone could see two networks - Vodafone and NTT Docomo, but whenever it was out of Vodafone range and could see only Docomo, it told me "Emergency Calls Only". Now that the old JPhone network is no longer going to be owned by Vodafone, hopefully they'll go out and g

    • Large, clumsy phones designed for Europeans simply don't jive with the small, sleek, feature-packed phones that typify the phones of other Japanese operators.

      In my experience it's actually the other way around. Many phones (particularly 3G) in Japan are too big to be sellable on the Eu market. Eu phones are really pretty darned good in this aspect.

      They do have higher demands on software quality though.

      FYI I work with developing mobile phones, for multiple markets.

      • Very true. I just visited Japan recently and one thing I did note was that all of their cell phones were HUGE. I have a tiny Samsung for work, and it has to be perhaps half the size of a typical Japanese cell phone. They like large flip phones with big screens, probably because they always are using them.

        What a sight it is to see a Japanese school girl riding her bike down a street in the rain with an umbrella in one hand and her cell phone in the other, text messaging people as she juggles everything.
    • My wife got a Vodafone keitai here in Japan. While it's one of the cool folding phones, Vodafone Japan seems to have the Canadian/American disease of locking down all the cool hardware features. They've made it so it's impossible to transfer files with Bluetooth, for example -- even though the phone is a full Bluetooth device with all the file transfer protocols. Also, battery life is pretty bad.
  • For those with Japanese language skill.
    See Slashdot Japan article [slashdot.jp]
  • Brick phones?? (Score:4, Informative)

    by SecureTheNet (915798) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @05:53AM (#14853090) Homepage
    introducing Nokia brick phones where flip-phones are the norm

    I believe the term is "candybar" phones. Bricks are from the early 90's. Oh, and while I'm getting all technical on the names, the summary more than likely refers to "clamshell" phones, where the flip portion opens on the top like a clamshell. A "flip" phone is a phone where the mouthpiece flips down, like the oldschool motorola's from the mid 90's.
    • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jon Chatow (25684) *
      Actually, the term is "monoblock". And they're far better. Can't understand the appeal of breakable 'phones at all; no-one I know has them, and for good reason (OK, two good reasons - the primary one is probably that they're not Nokias ;-)).
      • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:26AM (#14853129)
        You don't bitch about the 3210 and I don't bitch about your feature-overladen talking camcorder that can even crash. Seriously, the 3210 is a great mobile: It has a reasonable size, it's pretty robust even compared to other monoblock mobiles and it doesn't come with unnecessary bells and whistles like WAP. I like the 3210. It's a gret device for those people who need their phone for exactly two things: Call someone and be called. For everything else there's notebooks.

        Okay, I currently do use a 6210 (a 3210 with WAP and less navigable menus), but that's because I got it for zero cost and my 3210 took a hit to the screen too many.
        • The 3210 was a pretty decent phone (you couldn't beat the price at the time, as well), but a 6210/6310 has longer (stand-by) battery life, and weighs a lot less.

          I currently have an XDA2(/MDA2/qtek 2020) which is a full blown windowsCE PDA with built-in mobile phone (GPS/GPRS), but I'm thinking about getting me a simple phone to replace it. The PDA functions I don't use that often (except satnav); and as a phone it isn't great. It also keeps crashing..

          The 3210 has 2 faults (1 of which the 6210 corrects); it'
          • Oh, I like the fact that it's not a clamshell. Firstly it makes the thing more robust, secondly it underlines the thing's simplicity. I associate clamshell mobiles with built-in cameras and similar nonsense.

            Yu are right about the 6210 being lighter and having a better battery. Especially one that desn't die more often than Kenny McCormick. We still have two 3210 replacement batteries somewhere.
            • Uhh (Score:3, Interesting)

              by CaptainZapp (182233) *
              I associate clamshell mobiles with built-in cameras and similar nonsense.

              Do I get bonus points for using a 9300, even though it folds, but it doesn't have a camera?

          • The 3210 has 2 faults (1 of which the 6210 corrects); it's heavy and it's not a clamshell.

            What? That's a fault? I pay extra to avoid clamshells...Why would I want *more* moving parts?
        • For everything else there's notebooks.

          That's crazy talk. Cellular data usage (not necessarily WAP) is far from its promised land for a variety of reasons, but there are clearly use cases like checking ballgame scores that people will not be willing to carry a laptop around for. Cellular data will not replace laptops, but laptops don't cover every mobile demand either.

          • I know that there are things you can do with mobiles; the Japanese are quite busy finding a lot of applications for i-mode. I still find most of them silly (especially sport information, but then again I find organized sport as a whole silly).
      • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LMariachi (86077) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:27AM (#14853131) Journal
        1) Not getting your screen all scratched up by your keys or change.
        2) Not having your other pocket items randomly dialing numbers for you, or not having to punch in a knock code to allow you to dial.
        3) A microphone that's somewhere in the vicinity of your mouth instead of pressed against your cheekbone.
        3a) Smaller when folded, bigger when open.
        4) If it's good enough for the Federation, it's good enough for me.
        • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Jon Chatow (25684) *

          1) Not getting your screen all scratched up by your keys or change.

          Removeable covers. They cost next to nothing; I replace the screen cover every 6 months or so (so, about once per 'phone).

          2) Not having your other pocket items randomly dialing numbers for you, or not having to punch in a knock code to allow you to dial.

          Have you heard of keylock? It's not a "knock code", nor even a "lock code"; it's a combination of two keys, of which one is the key you'd press anyway to start finding a number.

          3) A micro

          • I'm not trying to get you to switch. Use whatever makes you happy. I was merely putting forth some reasons for the appeal of clamshells, which you said you could not understand at all. Hopefully now you can.

            Maybe we can find common ground in making fun of people with Bluetooth earpieces, [blackbeltjones.com] or the wired earbud with mic that makes the user look like a lunatic muttering to himself.

        • Two words: Moving parts.

          Any nerd worth his salt would look at a flip phone and say "hey, this thing has signal-bearing electronics in the crotch of a mechanical hinge -- we need to fix that right away!"

          Of course, if you replace your phone every 9 months anyway, I suppose it's no big deal.

        • And that's why I don't use flip phones (in addition to difficulty of opening them with one hand).

          Every flip phone, including the RAZR is thicker than a candybar counterpart. Compare RAZR to SLVR for example. There is a simple reason for this, candybar phones have a single display, flip phones have to stack up two displays on top of each other when the unit is closed.

          So flip phones are always thicker, and typically larger overall, simply due to the presence of these additional displays.
          • (in addition to difficulty of opening them with one hand)

            One of the first things I did when I got my current cell phone, my first flip phone after a candybar Nokia 6190 and a Sidekick, was to figure out how to do a Jim Kirk-style one handed flip opening with it.

            flip phones have to stack up two displays on top of each other when the unit is closed

            This is only true if your phone has an external display, so you can see a clock or caller ID without opening it. Admittedly useful, but not necessary. My phone do
            • One of the first things I did when I got my current cell phone, my first flip phone after a candybar Nokia 6190 and a Sidekick, was to figure out how to do a Jim Kirk-style one handed flip opening with it.

              Heh. I've been looking at getting a new phone lately (my current one is suffering badly from Sony Ericsson Joystick Death) and getting interested in the LG 880 - a very Kirkish clamshell design. But before ordering it I had to actually poke and prod one in meatspace. So - earlier today I looked around so

            • I wouldn't use one either, since then you have to open it even more often, as you point out.

              What model is this that still comes with no external display?

              In a way, I'm glad to hear one exists, since it seems like every phone is sprouting zillions of features, whether people need them or not.

              Some phones can be opened easily with one hand, some cannot. When looking at a flip phone, it's one of the things I check before even considering it. I do consider flip phones, but I don't consider swivels, as they are a
              • What model is this that still comes with no external display?

                Samsung SCH-A650, which I use with Verizon. I don't know if it's still in production or not; I got it a year ago. It has a slightly more expensive twin, the SCH-A670, which does have an external display and also a camera.

                I have a case on my phone, which makes it a little easier to flip open one handed since the plastic cover that protects the screen and keys makes it so that it doesn't close completely; rather it's a millimeter or two open.
    • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by strider44 (650833)
      Somehow I doubt that the submitter would see it that way, seeing how only America says "Candy" and as they also say "Cell phone" as opposed to "Mobile Phone" I'd guess that the submitter isn't American.
    • Re:Brick phones?? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gilgongo (57446)
      I work for a UK company that does a lot of user testing for the Vodafone embedded client software. Last year we ran tests in Japan with a Nokia 6600 (although Voda didn't plan to ship anything there on that hardware). It's a brick even by Western standards. On the video playbacks, you can see the jaws of several users dropping to the floor when they were shown the device at the start of the test!

  • Nokia mobiles are the most popular, abeit cheapest mobiles available in the Western market.

    Its no suprise that the Japanese market has rejected their crackpot mobiles.

    I have been free from a Nokia for the past 2 years and absolutely love it.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:11AM (#14853109)
    Why is there a vs at all? Flip phones might prevent accidental dialling & scratches but they consume more volume than the equivalent "brick" phone and often have extra protusions. I don't see why you'd fail for promoting one over the other. I don't see that Vodafone would promote one over the other. Their range in other countries includes flip phones and brick phones so its up to the consumer to pick.
    • The unfortunate thing about doing business is that companies have to pay attention to a group of people we will call "customers." These "customers" tend to have preferences. Their preferences are often irrational, yet the poor companies have to pay attention especially if they face "competition." The "customers" in Japan have a strong preference for clamshell phones. Vodaphone did not pay attention to their "customers" so they did not have enough.(That and the Japanese market is notoriously hard to break in
    • You're thinking "function." When it comes to electronic trinkets in Japan, it's all about "form." It's all a matter of fashion.
  • by tom1974 (413939) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:12AM (#14853111)
    Japanese mobile tech is at least 3 years ahead of everyone else. Vodafone just didn't get it.

    I had a beautiful clamshell 3G set light as a feather with media player, camera and imode 3-4 years ago. Snapping a picture of myself eating udon and mailing it to friends and family back then got me alot of ooos and ahhs :)

    Vodafone coming to market with the most ugly brick phones ever, the likes which we've never seen before in Japan, didn't help.

    Then there was them spending time and money on the pre-paid market. Basically, there is no pre-paid market there and there's a reason for that, nobody wants one. They came in thinking small, gunning for the niche market.

    Then there was the reputation of the network. Vodaphone bought out an old network, can't remember the name, but it was on the brink of going bust because the quality sucked major. People knew Vodaphone as the one that bought out the sucky network.

     
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:31AM (#14853135)
    to better themselves. In terms of gadgets, Japan is a tough market with lots of competitors, but like fighting any tough opponent, it would have made them better.

    It looks like they kept trying to push themselves onto the Japanese instead of adapting themselves, what with not adopting 3G and using a brickphone profile for their phones. How dumb is that? Was it a result of purely top-down leadership without some bottom-up feedback? I don't know but it looks that way if they are pulling out of Sweden too. Many companies try to do that when entering a foreign market, but they are usually spanked early on for their mistakes. I believe McDonalds serves lamb in India and wherever they go conform their menu to the locality.

    But the idea that an American company can't do well in Japan is false, look at Apple:
    http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/mar2 006/gb20060302_547553.htm?campaign_id=topStories_s si_5 [businessweek.com]
  • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:37AM (#14853144)
    I currently live in Japan and use Vodafone. It seems to me that they hold over a 30% market share among the hundred-odd phone numbers in my cell. In general, the four major companies (docomo at the high end, vodafone and au in the middle, tsuka at the bottom) seem about equally popular.

    I don't think this sale is due to failure. Rather, it is just one business selling off a decent little piece to another corporation who wants it more. It happens all the time.

    Btw, to whoever said "Japanese cells are 3 years ahead of everyone else", I would respectfully disagree. I'd rather have an American cell. Why? Because I hardly ever use the billion and one stupid bells and whistles in my Japanese phone. What I want to do is be able to talk on my cell phone, which is absurdly expensive in Japan. For nearly $40/month, you only get ninety minutes (and your billion and two text messages and emails eat into this time)! Nor do I find the reception better in Japan than in comparable areas of the US. Reception here is near universal in the major cities unless you are underground, gets a little spotty as you move into the burbs (especially indoors), and fails quite often in the countryside unless you happen to be at a high elevation. Same is true in the states, except we have less area that is city and more that is burb and countryside.

    Japanese cells aren't better. Rather, Japanese spend lots more money on them and buy all the bells and whistles that 90% of Western users just don't care about.

    • You don't sound like one to me, you sound like an ex-pat who can't wait to get back to civilization.

      While I don't doubt there are a lot of you world wide it is not a market a vodaphone could give a shit about.

      Everything you say is confirming that the Japanese do not have the same tastes as westerners. You are a perfect vodaphone customer, the japanese are not.

      Vodafone forgot to adapt and are now bowing out to save further problems while they can still recoop their money. It is nothing new. Other western

      • KPN's i-mode was a watered down, chicken version, while Boyugues in France and O2 in the UK have succesfully embraced the whole concept of i-mode - and it shows. Sales and usage of i-mode is going very well in the UK apparently.
        • If by very well you mean "I've never heard of or seen someone use it", then yes i-mode is doing great here in the UK.

          In all fairness it's only been available for about 3 months now, but I've not seen anyone with an i-mode enabled phone, and most of the phones O2 sell have either WAP or HTML browsers instead of i-mode ones. I've also not seen any marketing for i-mode from O2, so I'm not sure what the future holds for it.

          Ewan
      • friends use Vodafone? It is somewhat harder to talk on your phone here, as talking in public indoors is generally taboo (God, I wish this was true in the states). Hence, they do not need quite as many minutes. On the other hand, ninety minutes is pathetic - a couple of twenty minute calls to friends from out of town will burn all of your spare minutes from the month, and after that you pay through the teeth. This is true for all the companies.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 05, 2006 @07:21AM (#14853209)
      I live in Japan too. The subscription base in Japan is far from equal. As of end of Jan, Vodafone has 16.7%, AU including Tu-ka 27.8% and the rest 55.9%. Check this site.

      http://www.wirelesswatch.jp/index.php [wirelesswatch.jp]

      Vodafone is tryig to force the western business model in Japan and they have failied quite badly. The first batch of 3G phones that it introduced were taken from the Western world (Nokia 6650, SE V800, 2 models from Motorola, etc). That was the month they had the worst loss of customers (abt 60,000). Unfortuntely, the Japanese market user base is driven by handsets. If you do not have a good line up, they will be gone the next month. Japanese users are not afraid to change numbers (number portability will come later this year).

      You are a typical Vodafone customers whose main use of mobile phone is voice. Japanese mobile martket have moved pass the voice stage where income from data and other broadband services are higher then voice. Vodafone Live! is not as good compared to i-mode and ezweb. They lost a lot of high ARPU customers to the other 2 mobile operators. It is hard for Vodafone to operate successfully in Japan with their global business model that they try to apply to all markets. Top management has changed 2 times last year. They are now having some limited recovery after re-intruducing Japanese specific handsets from Sharp and Toshiba. Expats like yourself are too small in numbers to sustain Vodafone in Japan.
    • Well, in my Vodafone cell here, I think about half of the numbers are Vodafone. However, and this is something I must stress, this half is comprised exclusively of foreigners. Down here, anyway (in the outer edges of Kansai), Vodafone does great business with foreigners, and can't come close to DoCoMo or even au when it comes to the Japanese.

      And of course it's a personal preference, but I find the functionality of the free or nearly-free phones I've gotten here to far exceed that of the phones my relative
      • Re:30% of yours? (Score:2, Informative)

        by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)
        Just hold off another few months on that switchover. Number portability is coming soon (within the year), so that will be the best time to jump ship.

        http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY20060 2080145.html [asahi.com]
      • only five are foreigners (American, Brit, and three Chinese). The American and one Chinese are vodafone. Obviously, the sample size is too small to infer anything. The other 87 are Japanese, and vodafone is heavily represented. Actually, the reason I chose vodafone is because my closest Japanese friends/colleagues use it. Of those 87 numbers, probably 20% are my coworkers (generally Japanese graduate students) and 80% are twenty-something Japanese women (what the hell else would be in my cell phone?).
    • My phone book is mostly to Japanese, and perhaps one in twenty have a Vodaphone account. I think foreigners are overrepresented, in part because they can easily roam with Vodaphone in other countries.

      Oh, and that spotty reception of yours could be due to it being Vodaphone too - one of the major (perceived, perhaps real) weaknesses is supposed to be their scanty coverage compared to their competition.

  • by bahstid (927038) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:44AM (#14853150)
    Quite an interesting and unexpected turn of events...

    Vodafone has been going steadily downhill since their foray in to the market here. Their entry point was by buying out J-Phone and rebranding it as Vodafone K.K.. J-Phone was originally a division of JR, the national rail company. An interesting side effect of their original ownership was that in the early days of cell-access their networks first expanded along the railway networks giving them quite effective penetration even though their coverage was in fact quite spotty. J-Phone never quite reached the market-size of DoCoMo (the cellular division of NTT - the national telco), but was effectively their main competition with a reputation for innovation, which had cornered the younger "cooler" demographic. They were one of the first here to provide Java enabled phones and as the original originators of the camera-phone they have made their mark worldwide. In fact one of the last phones they brought to market before the buyout was the first phone to crack the 1 megapixel mark.

    No wonder Vodaphone wanted a piece.

    Some vodaphone insiders here have speculated that the main reason for the company's gradual descent has been the resistance of "old-Japan" upper management to outside pressures, almost more on principle than on particular merit, although some of those outside ideas have seemed to lack local market knowledge, amongst other things. Vodafone stagnated at a crucial point unfortunately - they were technologically ahead of the pack - their stall allowed competitors to take up the slack and old behemoth Docomo to pull ahead as many customers returned to DoCoMo for the newest gimmicks while vodaphone coasted...

    Its not hard to still spot J-phone branded phones around which speaks volumes about the strength of the original company in this "new and shiny" crazed market. I actually think this is a good thing - if Vodafone was only as commited as a three year ownership and doesn't have the kahoonas to turn things around, its only their loss. Hopefully this is the begining of a return to their former glory and I'll finally be able to rid myself of this stupid AU phone...
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Sunday March 05, 2006 @06:53AM (#14853169) Homepage Journal
    Follows the Japan trend of department stores. In any given location there will be three chains: The winner, the runner up, and the pitiful loser. Vodaphone is giving up too soon, but I'm sure glad to hear this. I almost got my business partner to sign up with me for new vodaphone phones because of an unlimited $3/month for unlimited dialing! And I'm paying $200 in mobile phone bills. I also almost bought a phone from them that could work in the U.S. too. Wanted it that day for a trip. But no, you have to go to another store to get the free chip put in, and the lines were too long so I couldn't buy it. Vodaphone didn't have what it took, whereas Softbank will probably do something intelligent with them. It was a brief flash in the pan, good riddance!
  • Vodafone also have a stake in a CDMA network in the US. How long before they divest that as well? When they are backing 3GSM in the rest of the world it seems odd to have a stake in CDMA in the US.

    • They know GSM isn't going to replace CDMA in the United States. The American GSM market is separate from the rest of the world's anyway, with different frequency bands and different price structures.
      • With quad-band or multi-band phones the frequency difference on the handset side is not that bad.

        A more difficult thing for Vodafone is that the infrastructure side is fully different.

        The services Vodafone can provide their customers in the US is different from what they can offer in the rest of the world and their services do not cross the different networks. They can not build a global brand which is also visible in that they do not promote the name Vodafone in the US.

        If there is no economy of scale an

        • If there is no economy of scale and no Brand benefit in a presence on the US market the investment only makes sense if they get a higher return on the US investment than what they pay in interest on all the money they have borrowed to build the rest of their network.

          Seems to me that the investment makes sense if they get a better return on it than they could've gotten from some other investment. Investing in VZW certainly must've worked out better than investing in any other US cellular company would have a
  • "I wish I knew how to quit you, Japan."
    Err, wait. Never mind...

    -MJ
  • by jamar0303 (896820) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @08:23AM (#14853336)
    I most certainly hope that Vodafone doesn't quit right now. Their biggest advantage is that they are attracting sales from people who want to unlock their phones to use in America/Asia/Europe/wherever else besides Japan and from foreigners in Japan. If a domestic company takes over, we might not see phones that can be unlocked in America (see DoCoMo's only 3G/GSM/GPRS phone) anymore, which means a loss in handset sales, and a drop in subscriptions from foreigners. A friend of mine from Nara says that she and her company use Vodafone, and while that may be personal narrative, she sounded genuinely satisfied with it, and Vodafone will be my next service provider as soon as I move out of China to Japan. That, or someone finds out a way to unlock a DoCoMo 3G phone to at least use in UMTS-enabled areas like Hong Kong. Disclaimer- it's late in China where I'm posting from, so this might not be entirely coherent, but I try.
  • by webagogue (806350) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @08:38AM (#14853372)
    Cred and disclaimer - I've lived in Tokyo for the last five years. Japanese phones are generally prettier, faster, and more stable than Euro/American phones. Those same phones are also extremely stupid, as opposed to smart, as in "smart phone." I am not a keitai expert and may be wrong but I believe that Vodafone Japan was the first to introduce a smart type phone with the Nokia 6210 (702NK). It is a brick and the screen is ugly, but it runs an OS that has a LOT of software available for it. This was quite a change from the proprietary, useless, custom OS' installed by everyone else. The Nokia 6210, despite its flaws, seemed to be a pretty big hit. In fact, about a year later, Willcom (which has some connection to Docomo, I think) introduced that Sharp PDA/smartphone running Windows Mobile(model number escapes me). And now, in the second half of 2006, Docomo Japan is finally going to bring out a smart phone running Windows Mobile. And as someone who likes to have the option of doing more than on thing with device, I am happy to see it and will likely buy one. Vodafone's move with the 6210 was likely desparate (they've had service issues) but I am glad they made the move and paved the way for alternate models to finally be made available in a very stagnant phone market.
  • by McFadden (809368) on Sunday March 05, 2006 @09:38AM (#14853495)
    I would take an entirely different view of Vodafone's demise. I feel that it's much less to do with it failing to match up to DoCoMo and much more to do with it failing to compete for the number 2 position against KDDI (owner of the AU network).

    DoCoMo has a loyal and strong customer base. Despite being more expensive than the other two networks, it is popular amongst the middle-aged and business customers who rarely switch networks. Furthermore these customers are less likely to upgrade their handsets on a regular basis, bringing a long-term return on the heavily subsidised phone the customer bought way back when. DoCoMo don't need to work to hard to maintain their position.

    KDDI (AU) on the other hand has gone from arguably being the third-best service offering to the biggest innovator in the space of just a few years. AU has introduced attractive service plans, and intelligently captured a large share of the student market by offering an across the board 50% discount to anyone in full time education. This has reaped dividends several years later as those students are now graduating and converting to full price customers. Additionally they have invested very heavily in their 3G network, with a significantly higher proportion of their customers transferring to 3G services than either of their competitors. My own AU phone is capable of data transfer of 2.4Mbps (faster than most peoples landline based broadband in a lot of countries!) The other two networks are way behind on this count. AU has also capitalized on the i-pod craze by making virtually all handsets mp3 capable and introducing their own mobile version of i-tunes, which has access to a lot of Japanese artists unavailable on other online stores. I'd take issue with the guy moaning about smartphones. The AU OS is perfectly functional and offers a catalogue of hundreds if not thousands of downloadable JAVA applications. My phone can also handle Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files and has a full featured web browser. Perfectly smart enough for my needs, and no Windows in sight.

    And what has Vodafone done in this time? Well to be honest, not very much. They were late to the table with their 3G offering, which works only in mainly urban reception areas. Most importantly, they haven't done anything to really differentiate themselves or their service which is where AU have really scored big points. I don't know the statistics, but I'd say that Vodafone have struggled, not so much because they have failed to win customers, but because both they and DoCoMo have lost market share to AU.

    The one comment I'd seriously disagree with is the "brick phone" suggestion in the original story. This is just bullshit. Walk into any Vodafone store and you'll see upwards of 20 handsets, maybe 2 of which are brick phones, and the rest are clamshells. I hardly think this is the cause of their failure, especially when DoCoMo and AU both offer bricks of their own.

    • KDDI's definitely trying hard to capture the "cutting-edge" market. I don't know if you're in Tokyo or not, but if you haven't already, you should check out the KDDI Designing Studio in Harajuku (just opposite one of the ends of Takeshita St.). It's pretty neat. You can print out business cards with your picture and barcode. Incedentally, I'm using a Vodafone 903SH right now, which is a typical high-end Japanese market mobile (and hence, was ranked #1 in Vodafone JP sales for quite a while).
  • Unbundled to Death (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    They couldn't make a business model work by unbundling the network from the hardware. Maybe because their brick HW was rejected by the market, and their non-3G network was rejected by the market. But their brand and marketing dollars are so strong, they could go "virtual", branding other companies' phones and roaming on other networks.

    Maybe it's just too competitive in Japan. While Vodaphone is used to making $BILLIONS without hardly any effort at all.
  • I love Nokia UI, but when I was in Japan, all I saw were big, flat, rectangular flip-phones with massively high-resolution internet-text-ready screens.

    I walked into a store in Akiba and saw a tiny flaccid Nokia booth showing off a 68xx phone, which I actually want, and after comparing the build and the low-res screen, walked away wondering, "who are the poor suckers who thought this thing would sell in the Japanese market?"

    Finding out it was Vodaphone was disappointing. Finding out they're folding from

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