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This article was published on January 1, 2013

A review of key technology news from Asia in 2012

A review of key technology news from Asia in 2012
Jon Russell
Story by

Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

Asia is a vast and increasingly important continent for technology firms. This year has been a massive one for the region with both local startups breaking ground and major international names continuing to push the boundaries forward, particularly on mobile.

Our Asia team has kept tabs on developments over the last twelve months and, with that in mind, here’s our quick overview that will bring you up to speed with the key happenings from Asia’s tech scene in 2012.


Cost-cutting Nokia to move its Asia Pacific HQ from Singapore to China

The first of much cost-cutting in Asia, among both firms from the region and beyond.

India’s $45 Akash tablet racks up 1.4 million pre-orders in 2 weeks

Sadly this device failed to live up to its potential…for now, at least, thanks to production issues and a bust up between the companies involved.

China now has more than half a billion Internet users

The beginning of a year of huge figures relating to China’s Internet

China Telecom set to end iPhone exclusivity in China following regulator approval

Apple got a second operator partner ahead of what was to be a big year for the firm in China.

Chaos sees one Beijing store close as Apple launches the iPhone 4S in China

This disastrous event saw Apple institute a new pre-order policy which has calmed its product launches in China.

Move over Twitter, Sina Weibo clocked 32,312 messages per second during Chinese New Year

China’s version of Twitter smashed Twitter’s own record.

China trials ‘real-name’ Internet regulation with plans to expand it nationwide

The first step of China’s new real-name regulations, which have since been widened to all Internet services, sites and providers.

Image via Feng Li/Getty Images


Sony outs Howard Stringer as president and CEO, names Kazuo Hirai as his replacement

Sony got a change at the top ahead of a huge year of restructuring for the company.

Facebook IPO: Company unsure on ever striking compromise for “complex” China

Facebook pre-IPO documents confirmed it wasn’t likely to enter China for some time, if ever.

Apple beating Samsung on its home turf as the iPad passes 1 million sales in Korea

Signs showed that even Korea’s homeland has become a fertile market for Apple.

Report: Apple iPads are being removed from stores in China following trademark ruling [Updated]

Apple’s lawsuit with Proview began to have an effect on the company, bringing with it uncertainty and concern.

Apple asks the Fair Labor Association to inspect working conditions at Foxconn

Apple CEO Tim Cook took a stand on labor issues in China by bringing in the FLA to audit its manufacturer Foxconn.

This Japanese marketer used a painful but unique approach to go viral on Twitter

A crazy story that served to show just how popular Twitter is in Japan.

Seeking an exit, Proview prepares to negotiate with Apple over Chinese iPad trademark

Despite securing a court order, Proview showed its keenness to settle its dispute with Apple early on.

New regulations will forbid Korean websites from collecting IDs to verify users

Korea took its first step to ending its legislation that documented user activities online.

RIM confirms it bowed to India’s monitoring request but enterprise services are exempt

India’s government finally got access to RIM’s service, but its enterprise users remained exempt.

Mobile car booking service Uber says it will launch in Asia by the end of 2012

Uber looked to Asia.


Instagram 2.2 speeds up the camera and adds support for Japan’s Mixi and China’s Sina Weibo

Instagram went Chinese and Japanese with support for top social networks in the two countries.

China Mobile reaches 15 million iPhone users, despite not selling the Apple device

There was further proof of what a partnership with China Mobile could do for Apple’s sales figures in China.

Japanese mobile calling app Line passes 20 million users, takes aim at Skype with PC plans

Japan’s Line had a stellar year, and it began making headlines on TNW in March with some serious growth.

With new iPad unveiled, Proview asserts its rights to the trademark in a letter to Chinese retailers

Proview zoned in on Apple’s new iPad, in what was more evidence of its efforts to pressure Apple into a lucrative settlement.

Report: iPhone owners are China’s most active mobile Internet users by some margin

Android dominated China’s smartphone scene but, as in other markets, Apple’s products were the more used on average.

Chinese online video giants Youku and Tudou merge, ending years of intense competition and legal battles

This billion dollar merger was one of the big tech stories in China, and is likely to have massive implication in 2013 and beyond.

Queues and midnight launches as Apple’s new iPad goes on sale in Australia, Japan and Singapore

Apple’s new iPad showed no sign of let down as consumers across Asia Pacific queue overnight for a device.

T-minus 10: Rocket Internet’s ecommerce clones are aiming to conquer Southeast Asia

Notorious German incubator Rocket Internet began its push into Asia in March when it launched an initial three services across five markets.

Fake Android Store sprouts up in China…pushing Apple products and branding too

Fake Apple Stores hit the headlines in China in 2011, but there are also counterfeit stores for Android too.

Google set to expand its presence in Southeast Asia with Indonesian office

Google launched an office in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest market with a population of 280 million people.

Path is growing faster in Asia than the West, says founder Dave Morin

Path founder Dave Morin said the service is growing fastest in Asia, but he declined to reveal actual numbers.

Tim Cook does what Jobs didn’t: Visit China as Apple’s CEO

Tim Cook became Apple’s first serving CEO to visit China, which included time at a Foxconn factory. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is later spotted in the country.

China’s latest crackdown on microblogs sees comment feature ban after coup speculation

Sina Weibo got in trouble for failing to control its users as talk of a political coup broke out on the microblog service.

Images via Line/Facebook and Brian Glucroft


Google’s $700M Asia data centre project advances as work begins on final site in Taiwan

Work on the third of the search giant’s three data centers for Asia got underway.

China’s state-run People’s Daily news site in $84 million IPO move (as Chairman Mao rolls in his grave)

Even state-run media had to adapt to the Internet, so it seemed.

Flipboard gets new competition in China – from its partner, microblogging giant Sina

Flipboard’s efforts in China saw it land red-hot social media service Sina Weibo as a partner.

Bharti Airtel becomes India’s first mobile operator to launch 4G (but initially dongle-only)

4G came to India…sort of.

Sony expects full-year net loss to amount to $6.4 billion. Yes, that’s billion.

Sony’s restructuring continued, painfully.

Report: Android now rules China’s smartphone market, after doubling its sales in 2011

Android became China’s top smartphone platform in China, thanks to explosive growth and plenty of industry support.

China’s top Web firms pledge to fight “harmful information” online, following coup rumors

Following Sina’s Weibo’s punishment, the country’s top Web firms pledged to help stop rumors on their services.

Sony aims to become ‘One’, will fire 10,000 workers and spend $926m on restructuring

More Sony restructuring. And pain.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wants to be bigger in Japan, “aggressively” beef up sales staff

Twitter placed greater emphasis on Japan, where it is a popular, mainstream service.

Hong Kong student behind Steve Jobs-Apple logo tribute lands Coca Cola ad project

A feel good story around a young Asian designer with real talent.

Apple’s Chinese iPad trademark saga could soon be over, as court and Proview both push for settlement

An end looked to be in sight for Apple and its iPad trademark dispute in China.

Google Drive blocked in China hours after launch, leaving Baidu and local players to dominate

Google’s new cloud storage service hit the buffers in China, predictably.

Chinese Web giant Sina admits slow application of microblog rules, fears new government crackdown

Fresh from being punished, Sina admitted it had found implementing China’s real name policy to be difficult.

Android now accounts for half of all smartphones sold in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia become a key market for Android in Asia, more proof here.

Images via Jamiemc / Flickr and Jonathan Mok


Japan’s GREE buys game developer Funzio for $210m, sharpens its focus on Western markets

One of a number of significant purchases made by GREE as it looked to grow its presence outside of Japan.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi hits $158m in revenue, 500,000 monthly shipments

Xiaomi showed its progress with new financial figures.

Japan’s mobile gaming industry faces a ban on lucrative ‘kompu gacha’ games [Updated]

A huge deal in Japan, this legislation would subsequently have a massive impact on share prices while also forcing top games makers to rethink how to approach Japan’s lucrative market.

Al Jazeera forced out of China after being refused new visas

The news agency closed its China bureau.

Sina Weibo to introduce ‘user contract’ on May 28 as China’s microblog crackdown continues [Updated]

Sina latest response to the sensitivities of censorship saw it introduce official rules for unsuitable content.

PayPal comes to Japan as joint-venture is established with operator SoftBank

Square is making all the mobile payment headlines in the US but PayPal jumped into Japan this year.

Japan’s mobile gaming firms to work with authorities to phase out controversial game feature

Japan’s games firms confirmed they’ll work to remove the controversial ‘kompu gacha’ game style from their titles.

Flipboard CEO: We’ll soon have more downloads in China than the US

Flipboard continued its progress in China, forecasting big things going forward.

Evernote launches Yinxiang Biji, its dedicated service for China

Evernote tackled China with a standalone service for the country.

Apple bid $16m for Chinese iPad trademark but Proview holds out for at least $400m: Reports

Apple and Proview hit the negotiation table, albeit with some gap in initial valuations.

Baidu aims to rival iOS, Android with own smartphone, OS and app store

China’s top search firm unveiled its plans for mobile.

Confirmed: Pinterest raises $100 million from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, previous backers

Japan’s Rakuten made a new name for itself as Pinterest’s mystery new backer was made public.

China finally approves Google’s Motorola Mobility acquisition, deal likely to close next week

With approval from China, Google got ready to close its $12.5 billion deal for Motorola Mobility.

Twitter blocked in Pakistan after refusing to remove ‘blasphemous content’ [Update: Restored!]

Twitter got blocked in Pakistan.

Yahoo’s $7.1 billion Alibaba deal leaves it free to make other investments in China

Yahoo and Alibaba cut a deal which sees the latter buy take $7.1 billion worth a shares in it that are held by the former.

SingTel gobbles up online food service HungryGoWhere for $9.4 million

SingTel closed its first major acquisition of what was to be a busy year.

Google now warns Chinese users if their search terms will trigger connection interruption

Google upped its efforts to expose and beat censorship in China.

Images via TNW and David Becker/Getty Images


Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi reportedly closes new round at a $4bn valuation

Xiaomi’s successes continued in 2012.

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten buys Spanish video-on-demand firm

Rakuten moved into video-on-demand services.

It looks like Korean mobile operators are throttling free call service Kakao Talk

In a sign of the potential of messaging apps, Korea’s operators throttled access to Kakao Talk.

Path broadens its global appeal with 7 new languages, including Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia

Path sharpened its focus on Asia and emerging markets.

Trouble on day one: The New York Times China’s Sina Weibo account gets suspended [Updated]

The New York Times went local in China, and immediately felt the heat of state censorship.

Yahoo to close Indonesia-based check-in service Koprol, its one-time Foursquare competitor

Indonesia’s most publicized startup success story was closed down by Yahoo, the company that bought it.

Image via Tim Green / Flickr


Apple agrees to pay Proview $60m to settle China iPad trademark dispute

Apple finally agreed to end its stand-off with Proview.

Sony’s video gaming unit buys cloud gaming platform firm Gaikai for $380m

Admit restructuring, Sony stumped up to further its Web gaming potential.

Asian mobile messaging service Line embraces apps and opens an API for its 45m user-strong platform

Japan’s Line made a move towards allowing users to use apps together, the platform has proven to be hugely popular and lucrative.

Chinese mobile messaging app Weixin to bring free voice calls to its 100m+ users

China’s Weixin (aka WeChat for those outside of China) made a huge leap forward when it added video calling. WeChat follows weeks later.

Driven by Android, smartphone shipments overtake feature phones for the first time in China

Smartphones continued to break new ground in China.

Japan’s DoCoMo closes $22.5m investment for 20% stake in joint venture with Chinese search giant Baidu

DoCoMo and Baidu finalized their deal for a JV in China.

Apple’s new iPad launches in China with short queues and no chaos

New anti-scalper system bore fruit.

Baidu opens its Singapore research centre, sharpening its focus on Southeast Asia

Baidu’s focus on Southeast Asia took shape.

Today, Microsoft opened its new Azure Accelerator in Bangalore, India – and we were there

Microsoft brought its Azure startup facility to India.

Korea’s KT Telecom hacked, 8.7m customers’ data sold to telemarketers

One of Korea’s worst privacy issues to date surfaces as the country continues to wind down its policy on mandatory user data.

Unable to compete with Samsung, HTC is closing its office in South Korea

HTC became the first of a few to say goodbye in Korea.

Chinese Web giants Baidu and Sina team up on mobile search and content

Two giants of China’s Internet came together to help their respective efforts to grow on mobile.

Images via Bryan Lyt and AFP/Getty Images


Fujitsu, DoCoMo and NEC unveil mobile chip making joint venture

The Japanese trio clubbed together to cut costs on chips.

Asian messaging app Line gets social, introduces Facebook-style profiles and timelines

Rolling off of an earlier revamp, Line introduced a bunch of social network-like updates to keep its users engaged.

Evernote opens API in China, three months after launching localized Yinxiang Biji service

The US note taking specialist stepped up its presence in China.

Dianping, “China’s Yelp”, lands over $60 million in funding to grow its mobile business

China’s apps ecosystem is big business too, as this deal showed.

Online music streaming service Deezer begins to roll out across Asia

Deezer beat Spotify, Pandora and others to roll out in Asia first after launching in Thailand.

Tencent wraps up $27m deal for 49% stake in Singaporean gaming company Level Up

China’s Tencent showed its interest in gaming and Southeast Asia.

All change in Korea where websites will stop collecting visitor ID numbers from August 18

Korea ushered in the end of an Internet era.

Android leads in Japan with 64% smartphone share as market climbs 43% in the first half of 2012

Japan was another market where Android was blasting away the competition.

Sony Mobile to cut 1000 jobs globally, move headquarters to Japan in restructuring move

Sony’s restructuring continues (this is very much an ongoing theme).

Deal done: A Chinese video giant is born as Youku-Tudou $1 billion merger is completed

The deal was final some five months later.

Indian ISP blocks and 25 million hosted blogs

Oops, an India ISP cut off one of the Web’s most popular blog platforms.

Chinese Internet monolith Tencent brings in $600m from senior note offering

Tencent raised a significant amount of funding, part of which was said to be used for mergers and acquisitions.

Evernote signs deal with Taiwan Mobile, opens an office in Taiwan

Evernote continued its Asia expansion and signed up its third carrier to date.

Facebook, YouTube and Google dominate the mobile Web in Asia: Opera

Opera confirmed that the Web’s giants are also prolific in Asia.

Images via Evernote and arnoldm / Flickr


Baidu to further its mobile strategy with $1.6 billion cloud computing center

Following the unveiling of its ‘Cloud Mobile’ strategy, Baidu invested in its backbone.

Mobile Web usage overtakes fixed-line Internet in India: StatCounter

Few places are seeing mobile Internet have such a huge effect on a country.

Chinese students reportedly required to ‘intern’ at Foxconn producing Apple’s next iPhone

More negative headlines hit the run-in to Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5.

Google re-enables YouTube uploads in Korea, following a 3 year block

Korea’s relaxing of Internet laws allowed Google to re-enable YouTube functionality to Web users in the country.

JP Morgan continues its Rocket Internet lovefest, invests in Asian Zappos clone ZALORA

Money comes into Rocket Internet startups in Southeast Asia.

Rocket Internet zooms in on Southeast Asia: Marc Samwer takes the lead, plots new funding

Rocket Internet’s focus on Southeast Asia saw founder Marc Samwer take a more active role in the region, as financing came raining in.

Tencent’s WeChat messaging app doubles user base to 200 million in 6 months

WeChat’s year of success continued.

Confirmed: JP Morgan invests in Rocket Internet’s Amazon clone Lazada; Sources say ‘upwards of $50m’

Rocket Internet’s first huge investment for Southeast Asia arrived.

WhatsApp guns for RIM as it signs first unlimited roaming deal with Three in Hong Kong

WhatsApp got aggressive in Asia.

Facebook targets Japan’s booming advertising market, as it overtakes local rival Mixi

Facebook finally became Japan’s top social network.

Google just dropped an Android-shaped bomb in China [Updated]

After reportedly applying pressure to cancel the launch of an Acer-Alibaba smartphone, Google went on the offensive branding Alibaba’s Aliyun platform an ‘incomplete’ build of Android which violated the Open Handset Alliance regulations.

LG launches the Optimus G in Korea, rolling out globally from October

Plotting a revival, LG unveiled a new device with an impressive feature list.

Foxconn set to spend $500m on new industrial park in Brazil

Foxconn made a huge commitment to its manufacturing presence in Latin America.

SingTel snaps up ‘mobile photo inbox’ app Pixable for $26.5million

Another significant deal for SingTel.

China’s Alibaba kicks Aliyun out of the nest with $200 million send-off

Alibaba spun out its troubled mobile business.

Asia is now Facebook’s largest continent after hitting 242 million users

Even without a presence in China, Asia became Facebook’s biggest continent.

Radio silence: Google unplugs its China-only music service

Google’s closed its first China-only service of the year.

Twitter’s new Lifeline feature in Japan helps people find relevant accounts quickly during emergencies

Twitter introduced this interesting service after testing.

Kiip is bringing its real-life rewards service to Asia, will launch in Japan in early 2013

Kiip is coming to Asia in 2013.

Hey Rocket Internet, your wooden furniture supplier is looking for you. Something about late payments.

We get some weird emails sometimes, but this one was particularly amusing.

Ailing tech giant Sharp confirms key $4.6 billion financing deal

Another Japanese firm in dire straits, Sharp needed this capital desperately.

Sony chases medical imaging market with $644m Olympus investment

Sony focused its efforts on another niche market.

Images via Flickr and MIKE CLARKE/Getty Images


Korea’s NEXON to buy Japanese games giant Gloops for $468.6 million

The Korea games firm went on the offensive with this huge deal.

Twitter opens office in Korea, puts focus on localised features and partnerships

Twitter went local in Korea.

Japan’s Softbank reportedly in talks to acquire Sprint in $12.8 billion deal

This rumor broke out, and we all know what happened later.

Foxconn admits it breached Chinese labor laws by hiring 14-year-old interns

However, the firm said that the issue was not connected to Apple or any Apple product making premises.

Jungle Ventures reveals $10 million ‘super angel’ fund for Asian startups

More good news for startups in Southeast Asia.

Sony details restructuring in Japan: Lens factory to close and 2,000 job cuts

More testing times for Sony staff.

Sina Weibo rolls out attractive redesign with Google+ style selective sharing

‘China’s Twitter’ Sina Weibo got a nice makeover.

Yahoo confirms it will leave South Korea by the end of the year

New CEO Marissa Mayer pulled the plug on the Asian country.

Japan’s DeNA jumps into crowded messaging market with Comm app for iOS and Android

Gaming giant DeNA fancied a piece of the mobile messaging pie.

The New York Times goes dark in China after exposé on premier’s family’s fortune

More censorship for The Times in China.

NTT DoCoMo to launch $125 million Japan-focused startup fund and incubator program in 2013

DoCoMo launched a new fund to help Japanese entrepreneurs.

500 Startups unveils its Fall 2012 accelerator lineup: More international and more sh*t founders say

Asia was well represented in 500 Startup’s latest selection of hot young firms from across the globe.

Image via Getty Images / AFP and Asia Career Times


Microsoft and NTT DoCoMo sign collaborative agreement to push LTE Windows 8 tablets to businesses in Japan

Microsoft landed DoCoMo as a Windows 8 partner in Japan.

Airbnb launches in Australia with new office in Sydney, coming soon to Thailand and Indonesia

Airbnb launched a presence in Asia. The firm later confirmed it expects the region to bring it 2 million property listings.

Baidu acquires dominant stake in online video firm iQiyi, buys out ex-Hulu investor Providence

Baidu strengthened its video presence following the Youku-Tudou merger earlier in the year.

It’s official: Samsung confirms 30 million Galaxy S III channel sales, 150 days after launch

Samsung’s latest blockbuster saw promising sales, as the firm confirmed.

Youku Tudou reaches content deal with Sony, now has agreements with all major Hollywood studios

The joint company shored up its position atop of China’s Web video industry.

Google decline in China continues as its search share falls to 4th place, maps to 6th

China’s censorship has had a huge effect on the company’s presence, as you’d expect.

Japan’s DeNA to invest $92.4 million for 20% stake in key partner and game developer Cygames

After missing out on Gloops, DeNA moved early for another partner.

With 400 million registered users, China’s YY chat client looks to raise up to $97 million in US IPO [update]

A rare Chinese tech IPO went off without a hitch.

Rocket Internet’s Amazon clone Lazada lands $40m more, as Swedish retailer Kinnevik invests

More money for Rocket Internet clones in Southeast Asia.

Android crushes the competition in China as it passes 90% smartphone market share: Report

Android is the key driver of China’s smartphone rise, even if Google is struggling with its business in the country.

China’s Sina Weibo passes 400m users, acknowledges pressure from rival Tencent’s WeChat

Sina Weibo continues to boast a huge number of users in China, despite WeChat’s growth.

China’s Tencent is bringing mobile payments to WeChat, its WhatsApp rival with 200m users

WeChat (Weixin) looks certain to add mobile payment features in 2013.

Baidu raises $1.5bn “strategic war chest” to pay off debts, pursue M&A opportunities and more

With its eye on acquisitions, Baidu raises a huge amount of funding via the sale of notes.

Google shuts down dedicated Motorola Mobility sites for Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Google began closing down its websites across Asia, and other locations.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note II hits 5 million channel sales, adding 2 million over the last 24 days

Samsung’s Galaxy Note II also proved popular across the world.

YouTube’s Channels initiative comes to Asia as 13 content partners sign up in Japan

Might this be the initiative to find the next PSY?

Japan’s GMO Venture Partners focuses on Southeast Asia’s potential with new $12 million fund

Another new fund surfaces focused on Southeast Asia.

Images via Samsung and fromkeith / Flickr


Early-stage investors JFDI and Golden Gate Ventures partner up to nurture Southeast Asia’s startups

Two of Southeast’s top startup-focused firms come together.

Apple finally brings its iTunes Store to Indonesia and India, and 54 other countries

Apple’s iTunes Store finally came to India and Indonesia.

Sharp takes $120m investment from Qualcomm to develop its low-power IGZO screen technology

More positive financial news for Sharp.

500 Startups closes its first deal in Korea after investing in video service Shakr Media

500 Startups extends its reach into South Korea.

Nokia announces the Lumia 920T with China Mobile, available for $739 before end of 2012

No iPhone, but Nokia 920T landed on China Mobile.

Rocket’s Amazon clone Lazada raises $26m to expand in Asia; Germany’s Summit is latest backer

The funding keeps coming for Rocket Internet’s services in Southeast Asia.

GREE lays off 25 staff in US as it transitions its games platform business to Japan (Updated)

Transitioning in the US and still feeling the effects of legislation in Japan, GREE made layoffs in the US.

Motorola to exit South Korea in 2013, as Google restructuring claims another 500+ jobs

Motorola followed HTC and Yahoo in leaving Korea.

Motorola Mobility sells manufacturing bases in China and Brazil to Flextronics

More cuts for Motorola, although the firm claimed that this deal would not result in job losses.

Apple sets new China record as iPhone 5 sales top 2 million in opening weekend

Despite claims it was struggling in China, Apple’s iPhone saw a record weekend of sales.

Yahoo follows Google in shutting down music service in China

Another day another Asia exit for Yahoo, and the closure of another music service in China.

Mobile games firm GREE test launches messaging app ahead of global rollout in 2013

GREE looks set to follow DeNA and others into mobile messaging in 2013.

Social reader Taptu launches local apps in India and China, targets 20m downloads in 6 months

Flipboard-rival Taptu landed in China and India.

It’s done. China makes it mandatory for all Internet users to register with their real names

China made its new rules on real-name verification across the Internet official. It remains to be seen how this plays out in 2013, but it doesn’t look promising.

Yahoo completes its planned exit from South Korea

Right on schedule, Yahoo exits Korea.

China’s Baidu is testing a facial recognition image search engine

Treading where Google once did, Baidu has quietly launched a facial recognition feature for its image search.

Images via Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images and Shutterstock

Main image via ThinkStock