Softbank announces 1-Seg Wi-Fi tuner for the 3G iPhone in Japan

According to a JapanToday article, Japan’s exclusive iPhone carrier SoftBank Mobile will release a 1-Seg Wi-Fi tuner that will allow customers to watch television on their iPhones in Japan. The tuner will also be used to provide free Wi-Fi internet connection services using the Yahoo!BB Hotspot network. Yahoo!BB is a subsidiary of the SoftBank group and the free internet service will begin on November 4.

The 1-Seg tuner will also works as a mobile battery charger for the 3G iPhone. The expected price will be about 10,000 Yen ($100 USD) and is planned to be released in the middle of December. The tuner transfers the signal from the 1-Seg digital TV broadcasting service to an iPhone using a Wi-Fi connection. The device will be 50x85x16mm in size, provide 3 hours of 1-seg television viewing time, and also provide 2 to 4 hours of iPhone use when used as a backup battery.

The 1-Seg Wi-Fi tuner is an attempt to address criticisms the 3G iPhone is not tailored to the Japanese market limiting its success. The inability to watch 1-Seg television and the lack of emoticons when typing email were some of the largest criticisms directed towards the iPhone.

Masayoshi Son Softbank’s CEO said, “Email without emoticons can’t be email in Japan,” He also stated, “We persuaded Apple Computer (to localize iPhones for the Japanese market).” The company will add an emoticon function to iPhones within the year through a software update.

Son said Softbank hopes to increase the number of iPhone users by providing unique mobile service and functions tailored to Japan’s mobile market. It remains to be seen if a solution that forces customers to carry 2 pieces of hardware will be a success. Many Japanese cell phones already have the 1-Seg television service built in.

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