Within the next year or two, DoCoMo plans to introduce phones with an embedded DoCoMo credit card, company officials say. The goal: to turn Japan into a credit-happy nation like America — and to build a lucrative new profit center for the company. “We have to enlarge our battlefield,” says Mr. Natsuno, who calls himself DoCoMo’s “crazy barking dog.”
DoCoMo’s vision could point the way for cellphone companies around the globe. The Tokyo company has 49 million customers in Japan, more than half the market, and a market capitalization of 9.058 trillion yen ($82.8 billion). It led the industry in offering commercially viable Internet and email service over cellphones, and also pioneered downloadable ringtones.
DoCoMo hopes the wallet phone will help turn things around. The first version, introduced in July 2004, can store up to about $450 in cash. It can also store credit-card numbers for some credit cards widely used in Japan such as JCB, so people can charge purchases using only their phone. About 22,000 retailers in Japan have installed devices at their cash registers that can receive the phone’s signal. Starting in January 2006, commuters will be able to board Tokyo trains by waving their cellphone over a sensor in the turnstiles.