/

DoCoMo pins hopes on a glitzy spring lineup

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

NTT DoCoMo Inc. on Tuesday unveiled its new products for the spring, vowing to catch up with rival carriers by releasing high-spec gadgets and promoting its shopping and content-related services.

The new products include a tablet device called the dtab, which can be bought for less than ¥10,000 and is designed mainly for home use to access DoCoMo content such as e-books and movies. The product lineup also features Sony’s new flagship smartphone Xperia Z, which generated a lot of buzz at the world’s biggest trade event for gadgets, the International Consumer Electronics Show, recently in the U.S.

“We have been in a tough competition, but with the new products for spring, we will roll again,” said DoCoMo President Kaoru Kato, who reiterated that the carrier still has no plans to add Apple’s iPhone to its lineup.

Kato, however, said DoCoMo may release handsets powered by a new operating system called Tizen, which DoCoMo and Samsung Electronics Co. are reportedly working on together along with other firms and hope to launch this year.

DoCoMo, while still boasting the most cellphone subscribers in Japan, has focused on Google’s Android OS but has been unable to keep customers from switching to KDDI Corp.’s au and Softbank Corp., both of which provide iPhones.

Last year, Softbank saw its mobile subscriptions grow by 3.48 million while KDDI added 2.51 million, both topping the increases they had the previous year. DoCoMo meanwhile increased its total subscriber base by only 1.36 million in 2012, a significant drop from its growth of 2.4 million the year before.

At the press event held in Tokyo, DoCoMo boasted that five of its nine new smartphones in particular are cutting edge and come with the full high-definition displays.

The carrier was especially pushing the Xperia Z, which has a 5-inch screen, a quad-core processor chip and Sony’s latest camera sensor for mobile phones.

To get its new WiFi-only tablet off the ground when it debuts in March, DoCoMo will offer the 10.1-inch dtab at a special rate of ¥9,975 to smartphone users who subscribe to a monthly ¥500 video content service. This special deal will run six months.

With the growth of smartphones, carriers are losing grip of their own sales strategies. The main players are OS providers like Google and Apple. In response, DoCoMo has been strengthening businesses like its shopping site and e-book and video market over its own platform.

By providing a cheap tablet, the carrier aims to increase the customers who use these shopping and content services.