NTT DoCoMo's i-mode is a wireless internet service for i-mode mobile phones using HTTP, popular in Japan and increasingly also elsewhere. It was invented by Mari Matsunaga and was first launched in Japan in February 1999.
It is similar to WAP from a user's point of view, but became a much bigger success because of more open networks. In the beginning it used only CHTML (for "Compact HTML") markup language, a subset of HTML. Later on NTT DoCoMo's collaboration with Sun Microsystem resulted in i-appli, an i-mode extension of J2ME. There are some 3000 content-providing companies for i-mode.
As of September 2003, i-mode has 40 millions customers in Japan, and 1 million in the rest of the world. i-Mode is being used or tested in following countries: Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy. Also, a version called m-mode is being used in the USA.
It is a global ecosystem where the operator design the compatible handsets, give strong editorial and usability rules to content providers, and propose an open business model to them. i-mode uses open standards as technologies: A light version of HTML is used for producing content, the i-mode e-mail is fully interoperable with Internet e-mail and images and sounds formats are the ones used on the Web. i-mode users have access to various services, e.g. e-mail, sports results, weather forecast, games, financial services and ticket booking.
Some typical features include so-called shell model, large displays (250x 320 pixels) and in many models, a display on either side. Additionally the phones have many extra features, e.g. a digital camera of a megapixel. The displays normally have 65536 colors but the newest models have as many as 262144 colors. The phones measure and weigh about the same as Nokia models. A typical i-mode phone is comparable to a Nokia 6600 model.
i-mode in use
i-mode phones have a special i-mode button for the user to access the start menu. There are thousands of official sites and tens of thousands of unofficial ones. NTT DoCoMo supervises the content on the official sites and they are often commercial. These official sites are accessed through the menus but the unofficial site addresses have to be typed manually.
An i-mode user pays for both send and received data. Receiving costs about the half of sending. There are different kinds of services to avoid futile reception of data. Monthly costs are from 2,5 to 5 Euros including both voice and data calls.