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Summary:

Apple is nowhere near relaxing its strict rules for carrier partners, according to Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo. Negotiations to bring the the iPhone to Japan’s largest cellular network operator have hit an impasse since Apple won’t back down on a rule against pre-installing software on devices.

iPhone 4S

Apple is nowhere near relaxing its strict rules for carrier partners, according to Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo. Negotiations to bring the iPhone to NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest cellular network operator, have hit an impasse since Apple won’t back down on a rule that prevents its partners from pre-installing software on devices, according to the carrier’s President and CEO Ryuji Yamada.

In an interview reported by The Wall Street Journal  on Tuesday, Yamada said the “closed operating system of the iPhone,” which prevents the carrier from pre-loading apps like its e-wallet and i-mode email service, doesn’t work for NTT DoCoMo. The reason that’s a problem? Those software additions are “important for Japanese customers.”

Of course, if that were true, there would be no problem with simply providing instructions detailing how to download the apps from the App Store to iPhone buyers post-purchase. Clearly, if the software was so desirable, customers wouldn’t mind a little legwork to get them. But the reason NTT DoCoMo (and all carriers) want to pre-load software onto devices is to give them more control over the customer and their spending practices.

Apple was instrumental in loosening the hold carriers had on content and access to services on cellular devices. Anyone over 25 remembers a time when if you wanted to browse the web on your phone, you used a terrible, limited, proprietary browser managed by your carrier that probably only provided access to select sites. Music stores, ringtones, wallpapers, etc.: All were once the exclusive province of your network provider. On Android devices, the situation isn’t quite that dire, but the presence of half-hearted attempts at carrier-branded stores and software is still a depressing reminder of a far less free mobile past.

Apple changed all that with the iPhone, which shipped with no pre-loaded carrier software, provided unfettered access to the web, and with the App Store, introduced a litany of choice when it came to services like navigation, another area once notoriously dominated on mobile devices by network operators.

Another reason cited by Yamada for not picking up the iPhone is Apple’s extraordinary upfront commitment requirement. The volume of device orders Apple insists on means carriers have to promote the iPhone heavily, which could result in a huge percentage of its subscribers on Apple devices. That in turn leads to less control of the customer relationship through measures like the aforementioned branded bloatware.

If it simply wanted to extend its reach as far and as wide as possible, Apple could ease its restrictions and allow carriers to preinstall an app or two. That would go a long way toward making its other conditions more palatable to network operators. But instead, the iPhone maker clearly wants to maintain complete control of its product, even if that means throwing back a big fish like NTT DoCoMo.

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  1. Good! Thank you, Apple!

  2. NTT DoCoMo and US Cellular have something in common — shortsightedness and stupidity. Let’s see if either of them ever figure it out.

  3. amen…I can’t stand ATT as it is…but if I had to deal with apps they required to have on my iPhone I would lose my mind…

    cudos to Apple for standing their ground…fact is the carriers that have the iPhone can’t keep them on their shelves or in their stores as it is…if the Japanese company doesn’t want that type of money in their pockets then so be it…good luck with that…you will lose to a competitor that will follow Apple Law

  4. Graham Jolicoeur Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    I think anyone over 16+ would remember carriers own app, ringtone, etc. stores.

  5. I leave in Japan and switched as fast as my legs would carry me once I found out that AU was getting it and so did many others. They had no concerns about not being able to put their own apps on the phone from what I heard and frankly none of the Japanese I know who have an iPhone even bring it up. About the only issue I have is the earthquake app which didn’t work 2 weeks ago when we had shake.
    Not a peep, no warning at all.
    Well to bad for DoCoMo if they don’t want it the folks who do will shift to AU if coverage is good in their area.
    By the way on launch day Softbank computers mysteriously crashed making it difficult for one to get their document to move their number over to AU.
    ej

  6. YES!!!! This is absolutely one of the top reasons I had for buying an iPhone. The Androids are so crammed with that crap.

  7. Well, it’s not like Apple need to try hard to sell more phones elsewhere. iPhone are also a pain to the carriers for another reason, the customers actually start using the network and more of their data every month instead of paying for a plan they are locked into for two years and having a phone so crappy they never actually browse or get their mail from. Less profit again from each iPhone customer.

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