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Japan’s cellphone lineups for summer 2013 — fit and focused

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff writer

Lean and focused would be a good way to characterize the recently launched lineups from Japan’s three top cellphone carriers.

While NTT DoCoMo Inc. had released 18 kinds of smartphones last summer, it trimmed down to 9 for this summer.

In a rare move for Japan’s biggest carrier, DoCoMo chose Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Xperia A as its flagship models. To ensure sales and competitive edge over the popular iPhones, sold both by Softbank and KDDI, the company also announced discounts targeted at current DoCoMo users who have yet to upgrade to smartphones.

 KDDI also strategically pared its smartphone lineup, slimming down from six last year to four this summer: Sony’s Xperia UL, Kyocera’s Urbano, Sharp’s Aquos Phone Serie and HTC J One.

KDDI and Taiwan’s HTC have had a cozy relationship to provide collaboration models in the past few seasons and this summer is no different.

The 4.7-inch HTC J One is a localized version of HTC’s flagship model HTC One. The full-metal-body smartphone comes with functions familiar to Japanese users, such as an e-wallet and one-seg video, as well as compatability with au’s Smart Pass, the popular app-subscription service .

Softbank was the only carrier to hold steady, releasing the same number – 6 — as last summer.

While it has high-spec and big-screen handsets like Aquos Phone Xx and Fujitsu’s Arrows A as well as Sharp’s Pantone, which has a built-in geiger counter to gauge radiation levels, Softbank added a model called Simple Sumaho (simple smartphone) aimed at senior users.

Lacking the usual bells and whistles, the Android-powered phone has an appropriately simple user interface with bigger character fonts.

Also, the unlimited 3G Internet monthly plan for the simple smartphone is set at ¥2,980, about half the price of plans for regular smartphones, should prove to be attractive to seniors contemplating the switch.