GW-304 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

Japan Inc Magazine Presents:

The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 304 Friday July 04, 2008
Subscribers: 9467

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SONY HDR-CX12 Handycam takes 'Smile Shutter' stills

Category: digital still and movie camera
Price: Open price (about JPY130,000)
Release date in Japan: July 20, 2008

The newest model in the company's venerable Handycam line, the
HDR-CZ12 brings 'Kao Kime' and 'Smile Shutter' face-recognition
technology to your filming sessions.

The 'Kao Kime' is pretty old-hat by now: face-recognition
software catches the faces in your shots, and matches the focus,
color, brightness, and flash to best flatter those. 'Smile
Shutter' is a tweak on the smile-recognition found in many still
cameras: the feature watches for grins, and snaps a
7.6-megapixel still photo without interrupting your filming. The
result: you get your movie, plus some automatically-taken stills
of your subjects' best smiles.

There are some options you can play with, such as placing
recognition priority on either adults' or children's faces. You
can also choose from three levels of smile sensitivity, from
'just smirk a little' to 'come on, let's count 32 teeth'.

In still camera mode with movie recording off, you're good for
shots up to 10 megapixels. As a movie camera, the HDR-CX12
records AVCHD video in full HD (1920x1080i), with
MPEG-4AVC/H.264 compression. The included 8GB Memory Stick will
record up to 3 hours of video on LP mode, or 55 minutes on
highest-quality full HD FH mode.

The camera's 'Quick On' feature wakes it up from sleep in one
second. The included 'Picture Motion Browser' software for your
PC will create 3-megapixel photos from your movie clips, and
even let you search only for shots containing smiling faces.

Other specs: 2.7-inch touch-panel monitor, 12x optical zoom
(150x digital), 'ClearBit' CMOS sensor with 'Exmore' image noise
reduction and 'BIONZ' image processing engine, optical 'active
lens' shake reduction, Zeiss 'T*' anti-glare lens, Memory Stick
slot. 420g with battery.

More info:

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Softbank Mobile brings the Apple iPhone 3G to Japan

Name: Apple iPhone 3G
Category: smart phone
Price: JPY23,040 (8GB) or JPY34,560 (16GB) plus service plans
Release date in Japan: July 11, 2008

On June 9, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 3G and its
surprisingly low hardware prices: $199 for 8GB and $299 for
16GB. The iPhone 3G (with data transfer much faster than the
first model's EDGE network) begins its worldwide roll-out,
including Japan, from July 11. With UMTS/HSDPA and GSM in its
pedigree, you'll be able to use the iPhone 3G just about

There's no need to further discuss iPhone specs here; it's the
most talked-about mobile phone ever. Head to Apple's website or
nearly any technology blog for all the info you could want. (In
fact, good luck finding technology sites that *don't* say
something about the iPhone.)

Our concern: What exactly will happen in Japan on July 11, and
what'll it cost you? Here's what we know so far:

On June 23, Japan's third-largest mobile operator Softbank
Mobile Corp. announced it would be Apple's first partner to sell
the iPhone in Japan, though NTT DoCoMo says it's still in talks
with Apple. (Trivia: Apple and/or Softbank are also paying a
licensing fee for the iPhone trademark in Japan to sound-alike
Aiphone KK, maker of a portable video intercom system.)

Softbank's Japan prices are JPY23,040 for 8GB and JPY34,560 for
16GB, whether bought lump-sum or in 'New Super Bonus' 24-month
installments. Like other Apple gear in Japan, those prices are a
bit higher than US prices, though in the same ballpark. (Like
AT&T, Softbank is actually quoting much higher prices -
JPY69,120 and JPY80,640 - for the two phones, with a 'special
discount' on the hardware for subscription to the required
service plans.)

The big question for Japan is service plan fees. Here's how
details are shaping up:

The basic Softbank Mobile voice and mail plan for iPhone 3G
users is 'White Plan (i)' for JPY980/month, which includes free
domestic calls to other Softbank phones between 1:00 am and 9:00
pm. (Usage-based 'Blue Plan (i)' and 'Orange Plan (i)' options
will also be offered.) Also included is 'Email (i)' service,
which gives users a '' mail address with
receipt notifications.

For data, Softbank has created a new 'Packet Flat-rate Full'
plan for the iPhone 3G (as well as its other smart phones like
the X Series). For JPY5985/month, that offers unlimited data
transmission for mail, web browsing, maps, and so on.

Finally, like many Softbank Mobile web-related features, iPhone
3G online features requires subscription to the 'S! Basic Pack
(i)' service for JPY315/month.

Total monthly cost for the three required packages: JPY7280.

Naturally, Softbank Mobile has more services up its sleeves if
you're willing to pay. One, 'Basic Option Pack (i)', bundles
three services worth JPY735/month separately for only
JPY498/month: Voice mail (up to 90 three-minute messages/week,
with support for the iPhone's popular Visual Voice Mail
feature); Call waiting (lets you annoy people by putting them on
hold to catch new calls); and Group calling (lets you juggle up
to six simultaneous calls). Add that to the services above, and
your monthly cost becomes JPY7778, aside from the cost of the
phone itself.

On top of that, Apple itself wants to tempt you with more. Its
old '.Mac' ('dot mac') online service has been rebranded
'MobileMe' for the iPhone age, and from July 11 promises to
bring synchronized push email, push contacts, push calendars,
online storage, and much more to all your iPhones, iPod touches,
Macs, and PCs. That option runs JPY9800/year (US$99/year).

Extras aside, how does the basic package stack up? Its unlimited
data usage will be greatly welcomed by iPhone 3G owners, and the
package cost may not be that much more than what you already pay
for your monthly cellie bill. By comparison, an AT&T package in
the US for individuals will cost you a minumum $40/month for
voice plan and $30/month for unlimited data, with a 2-year
contract –a total monthly charge just about the same as the
Softbank package.

Is the iPhone hardware itself worth its price? Until you can
play with one in Japan come July 11 (or later; depends on the
crowds you'll have to fight), you can do two things: 1) read up
a lot on the device (everyone else is); and 2) get a general
taste for its form and features –well, except for the phone
functionality –from an iPod touch at an electronics shop or
Apple Store near you. The iPhone 3G is currently a cheaper
product than the iPod touch that does less, so if you're in the
market for both an iPod and a smart phone, the iPhone is
arguably a great bargain.

Softbank chief Masayoshi Son has high hopes that many mobile
shoppers will say 'yes' to what he calls 'the most advanced
[mobile phone] device in the world' and the only phone in Japan
carrying 16GB of memory. He predicts a lot of new customers
coming from DoCoMo and au - not for cheaper service plans, as in
Softbank's the past, but specifically for the iPhone's unique
features. That could mean a lot for Softbank revenues: the
iPhone 3G's JPY7280 monthly fee is almost 70% higher than the
company's average intake of JPY4310 per user in the last

There's been no public announcement of how many iPhone 3Gs will
be available for the launch; supplies may be constrained as the
phone rolls out in over 20 countries and regions simultaneously.
CEO Son hinted at disappointed would-be buyers, suggesting that
Softbank employees themselves may be left out of the initial

There are still many details to be confirmed, including minimum
contract lengths for service plans, cancellation options, paid
support service beyond the included 90 days, and so on. Stay
tuned for more -

More info:
index.html (English)
iPhone basics:
More news on the iPhone in Japan:

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Plantronics Discovery 925 headset comes to Japan on iPhone day

Name: Plantronics Discovery 925
Category: Bluetooth headset
Price: Open price (about JPY17,800)
Release date in Japan: July 11, 2008

'That's one small step for a man...' 'Houston, we have a
problem...' Did you know that some of the most famous words from
space were soken into headsets from California-based

The company's popular Discovery 925 headset is coming to
Japanese electronics shops and online retailers including Amazon
Japan. The Bluetooth ver2.0+EDR device sits in one ear and is
built for simplicity, with only a power button and a talk
button. Its Multipoint technology will connect to two devices
(like phone and PC), switching between the two as desired, while
AudioIQ noise-control tech analyses surrounding sound to
optimize voice quality.

The device looks great and comes with a leather storage case
that doubles as recharger. Expect 5 hours of talk, or a week of
standby, on a charge.

Plantronics Japan president Hiroshi Murata told the press, 'The
Japanese Bluetooth headset market is already over 1 billion yen,
but looks to be growing rapidly in recent years. We expect
50-70% annual unit growth from here out.'

The Discovery 925 shares a July 11 Japan release date with the
iPhone. Added Murata, 'We'd really like people to pair [the
Discovery 925] with the iPhone going on sale the same day. On
the US Apple Store, it gets the highest 5-star rating.'

More info:
2008062717098E5293632020.htm (Japanese)


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Short items

Spotted elsewhere in the news:

1) Sanwa Supply's 'TRACKBAR Emotion' is a USB computer input aid
that sits in front of your computer keyboard. The unit puts
thick palmrests under your hands and numerous controls - left
and right click buttons, browser forward/back buttons, a scroll
wheel, and a four-way, double-clickable 'pointer control bar' -
between your hands. Sanwa claims advanced ergonomic design to
make computing faster and more comfortable, without the need to
shift a hand to a mouse. For PC and Mac. JPY14,980.

2) JVC's new HP-AV350 headphones are perfect for the
multilingual TV viewer. Along with a 5-meter cord, the 'phones
offer controls for both volume and for the main/sub language
channels. That'll let you switch languages from the headphones
alone during multilingual broadcasts; with two sets connected to
a TV, two people could simultaneously listen to different
languages. JPY2600.

3) Vending machines, those big gadgets lining streets
everywhere, have long been criticized for one problem: they'll
cheerfully dish up alcohol or tobacco to any schoolkid with a
pocketful of change. Consequently, Japan is now refitting
nearly 600,000 cigarette machines to require a 'Taspo' age
verification card for purchase.

Customers without a Taspo card can head for one of 4000 new
machines that use cameras and facial-recognition software to
determine (that is, take a guess at) whether the buyer meets the
age limit. But right now, underage smokers are having a laugh a
the machines' expense: it turns out that if you just show the
camera a magazine photo of an oldster, there's every chance that
the machine will happily hand over the smokes. The manufacturer
of the vending machines, Fujitaka, claims to be hard at work on
a version that won't be fooled by photos.

Written by: Timm Tuttle
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