Akihabara News (Tokyo) — NTT Docomo has announced that it will terminate services for i-mode, the world’s first mobile internet service, at the end of March 2026.
A groundbreaking new technology at the time of its launch in February 1999, it ultimately peaked at about 49 million users in 2010.
Gradually, however, the inability to spread i-mode internationally, and more importantly the competition from the superior Apple iPhone and Google Android systems, relegated the technology to obsolescence. At present, there are about 7.6 million subscribers and declining.
An NTT Docomo statement explained, “Given the decline in the number of contracts and the allocation of more corporate resources to 5G), we have decided to end services.”
In its heyday in the early 2000s, i-mode offered its mostly Japanese users services that were otherwise unknown. It allowed users mobile access to email and the internet, and played a key role in popularizing the now ubiquitous emoji.
In the end, however, it largely became another galapagos technology. Although Japan had taken a global lead with the introduction of i-mode, it was ultimately blown away by Steve Jobs and his iPhone, introduced in June 2007.