Google is slowly but surely expanding its Android Pay platform to more territories. Today Japan gets access - if you're in the country you should be able to download the app from the Play Store for the first time on Android 4.4 or later. Google's retail partners in Japan include McDonalds, Dominoes, Lawson, Mini-Stop, Apita, Family Mart, and Coca-Cola vending machines, along with a handful of Japan-exclusive retailers.
Android Pay made its first Asian appearance in Singapore back in late-June. A couple months later, in August, rumors began circulating that Google was in negotiations with numerous financial companies to prepare for a launch in Japan. Names of the likely partners included: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, East Japan Railway Company, Rakuten, NTT Docomo, and JCB, to name a few. Since then, details have been sparse; but with evidence discovered in the latest update to Android Pay, it's now clear that a deal has been struck with Rakuten.
The V20's a nice phone, but its 5.7-inch screen, combined with the secondary display up top, can make it a bit unwieldy to hold for those of you with smaller hands. Well, LG's got a solution for you - the oddly-named isai Beat (LGV34), a phone with most of the V20's features, a 5.2-inch display, and water resistance. However, if you don't live in Japan, you might have a hard time getting your hands on one of these.
Spotify today announced the official arrival of its music service in the Land of the Rising Sun. Both Spotify's ad-supported free streaming plan and ad-free subscription will be available in Japan, making it the only music service in the country to offer the choice between these two approaches — or so does Spotify claim.
But the service isn't yet available to all. Users will have to go to Spotify.com in Japan and request an invite to be able to join. Public availability for all is said to be coming later. If they opt for the paid plan, it will cost 980 yen (approx $9.67).
Regardless of whether they choose the freemium or paid subscription, they'll get the benefit of Spotify's wide catalog of international and Japanese artists, its smart curation algorithms with Discover Weekly and Release Radar along with Japanese-centric playlists, its portability from desktops to mobile, PlayStation, WiFi speakers, and more, and its Gaming and Running modes.
Pokémon GO has made several Pokéstops since its launch. First available in Australia and New Zealand, the game powered up and spread to the US, UK, Germany, followed by several European countries. Notice something missing there? Yes, the gym where it all started: Japan. That's no more.
Android Auto works in a few dozen markets already, but until today Japan was not among them. Google has announced that its in-car platform is available in Japan effective immediately, and several cars will be ready to accept Android Auto connections just as soon as Japanese users can find a USB cable to plug in.
Android One isn't Google's most-loved product initiative, but it does proposition consumers with a deal they aren't getting anywhere this side of a Nexus: updates direct from Google and minimal bloatware. Android One has predominantly launched in Southeast Asia and a few other locations - such as Turkey - but has remained firmly out of tier-one economies to date. Today's announcement by Google, Sharp, and Y! Mobile, then, is quite interesting.
Google Maps is my go-to tool for finding local businesses, but it isn't always the most transparent way to see them at a glance. For example, I'll search for a café in a major retail hub, but half the results will be from the Starbucks inside Target or the little deli inside a grocery store - not exactly what I'm looking for in a quiet meal. Things might soon get a little easier on that account: the Google Asia Pacific blog says that upcoming versions of Google Maps will list business types right in the map view... but only in Japan for now.
We all love the Chromecast thanks to its cheap price and almost endless potential to turn any TV into a smart streaming machine. Last year, Google released an update to the original Chromecast with a few minor improvements as well as a Chromecast Audio that works with all Aux speakers. Now these new gadgets are available for purchase in the southern part of our planet: Australia and New Zealand.
In Australia, the Chromecast 2015 and Chromecast Audio will be priced at $59 AUD (approx.
Are you bored of the endless parade of touchscreen slabs that smartphones have become? Do you want a new idea, a strike of genius, something to foam at the mouth for? Then look no further than the Japanese market. The companies there are just scrubbing every assumption we have and building weird products to appeal to their awesome and quirky market, like this Kyocera DIGNO rafre. Let's pretend that we all know how this name is pronounced and move on to the highlight feature of the phone: it's hot water and soap washable.