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Why Japan Leads the Mobile World

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the always-on-the-move dept.

The Internet 152

Phurge writes "It is no wonder that companies touting m-commerce as the next big web thing tell us Japan is the future blueprint. The Guardian takes a look at the cutting edge and everyday life of cell phone users in Japan. 'By offering the Japanese a multiplicity of services — and, very importantly, some very cool handsets to use them on — the operators have created what every western mobile service provider is dreaming of: a mobile lifestyle culture that keeps millions reaching for the mobile rather than the fixed internet ... What they are less keen on is video calling: in Japan, as in the UK, 90% say "no thanks, never". And as for using the mobile as a modem - to link to the internet - that's very expensive in Japan.'"

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152 comments

awesome (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771569)

It is no wonder that companies touting m-commerce as the next big web thing tell us Japan is the future blueprint.

You mean we'll be able to buy used panties and tentacle hentai direct from our mobile phones soon, too?

Why do they lead? Simple answer: Godzilla. (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771591)

Every few years he stamps everything flat so they're always rebuilding from scratch. No legacy systems to work in, it's all new equipment from central office to cell tower.

Why do they lead? Simple answer: WWII. (0, Troll)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773793)

After we stomped/bankrupted 'em flat in WWII, they had to rebuild from scratch. No legacy systems to work in, it's all new equipment from central office to cell tower.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Why do they lead? Simple answer: WWII. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775573)

Fixed that for you.
Might or might not have been a troll, but it's certainly true that Japan's rapid post-War development, modernisation and resultant prosperity was the result of it being almost destroyed and rebuilt from scratch (with help from the Americans).

Re:Why do they lead? Simple answer: WWII. (1)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776349)

The Japanese were also forbidden by the terms of surrender to have a military sufficient for anything more than self-defense. Wonder what research could be funded with the money the U.S.A. spends on developing new ways to make dead soldiers.

Admittedly, defense research discovers nifty things like cloaks of invisibility and microwave pain beams... but I wonder if its the most fruitful line of inquiry.

Re:Why do they lead? Simple answer: WWII. (1)

McFadden (809368) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776637)

The Japanese were also forbidden by the terms of surrender to have a military sufficient for anything more than self-defense. Wonder what research could be funded with the money the U.S.A. spends on developing new ways to make dead soldiers.
Japan is actually the fourth biggest spender in the world when it comes to defence. While they may be a long way behind the U.S. (frankly everyone is), there are a lot of developed countries that spend a fraction of what Japan does. Japan's military might be constitutionally forbidden from waging war, but it doesn't stop them having some very shiny battleships.

Re:Why do they lead? Simple answer: WWII. (1)

McFadden (809368) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776497)

it's certainly true that Japan's rapid post-War development, modernisation and resultant prosperity was the result of it being almost destroyed and rebuilt from scratch
I'm not sure what your basis for this is, but I think this is at least in part a fallacy. Japan was already the dominant power in the region before WWII, and had already demonstrated the capability to thrive without American dollars. They had the most advanced infrastructure of any country in Asia, a formidable military, and the modernisation of the country during the Meiji era had already set the path for future progress.

The majority of Japan's construction (homes, office buildings, schools, hospitals etc.) is knocked flat and rebuilt every 20-30 years for a couple of reasons. Firstly, land values are still incredibly high in Japan due to supply and demand, and so most buildings are created using relatively cheap materials to keep the overall cost to a bearable level. Secondly, being one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world, safety dictates that buildings have a lifespan of several big shakes before it's time for them to come down. It's better to renew them regularly rather than waiting for them to reach a high-risk level of structural soundness. Thus the entire country (bar a few temples, and places of historic interest) is rebuilt every generation or two, even without the assistance of American bombs. Had WWII not occurred, the country would probably be culturally different in many ways (I doubt baseball would have become the national sport) but as for completely rebuilding - that happens anyway.

Finally, population density, and a relatively compact geography (almost the entire population lives in about 20% of the land, due to the fact that the other 80% is highly mountainous) means that mobile phone infrastructure (for example, 3G coverage), fibre-based internet etc. can be deployed much more quickly and effectively than in a country like the U.S.

For relaxing times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20771599)

...make it Suntory time!

The UK only says "no never" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20771635)


because of the prices that the cellphone companies charge
make it ridiculously cheap and we will use it

its just market forces at work, voting with our wallets

Re:The UK only says "no never" (1)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772073)

Video calling? It's totally available here in the US for free as long as you have high speed internet and are willing to use AIM or MSNMessenger, etc. But still people say "no, never." I think there are other reasons people don't want to do it. For one thing, due to the desires of consumers, phones have become more and more mobile--we don't have to stand at the phone and speak into the mouthpiece mounted on the wall anymore. Instead the earpiece and mouthpiece are both mounted on the same portable units so we can walk around our house, our yard, and even hop in our car and drive somewhere. A video phone service would immobilize us again.

As far as I can tell, I don't think the videophone thing will take any hold anywhere except for every now-and-again usage by the normal population, and rampant usage among pornographers.

Re:The UK only says "no never" (1)

binaryfinery (765601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772205)

Its coming -its like the early days of dialup when you paid £15 month for 56K and were happy. Then came ISDN, ADSL and fibre and now £15 month can get you 8MB+ (if close to the right exchange). 3G in mertro areas, EDGE is being deployed, followed by HSDPA - as the rates increase the telco's will look for the differentiator and the prices will fall.

Re:The UK only says "no never" (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772425)

Depends where you live. I'm still paying £30/mo for 2Mb DSL, the best service the monopoly in my area offers (the exchange is 30 seconds walking distance away).

Re:The UK only says "no never" (3, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772411)

"So rather than skin the consumers for every cent, they keep a good-value proposition."

That is it in a nutshell.

America could have the same, except no one will sign up,
because they know from their basic cell phone experience
that they will be taken for a ride. People are not fooled
for long.

Japanese youth does not have their own room (5, Interesting)

fluor2 (242824) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771681)

It's important here that the youth of Japan grow up in very small houses, where even some have beds they have to pull out from the walls. It's all about small rooms and small things.

Do you want to sit at home surfing using the computer in the living room? No, of course not. That's why they buy small telephones and use them for surfing.

It's not comparable to anywhere else in the world, except maybe China.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771743)

Seoul, Korea or India spring to mind instantly.

There are several heavily populated places in the country where people must live in this fashion.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771915)

Its also a cultural thing. In Japan smaller is almost always considered better. Cars spring to mind. In the US most people want bigger cars and will only settle for smaller ones to save money. Maybe its the fact they are on an Island and space is limited. Personally, I dread using a cellphone for anything except calling. I have to go through several menus on a small screen and typing is even more painful. Every time I get a new phone I have to read the manual and learn how to do the simplest things over again. Also whoever decided buttons on the side that can be accessed in a pocket when you don't want them pressed should be shot. My last phone would go into 'manner mode' in my pocket. This would have me pulling the battery to fix it. Since 'manner mode' wasn't in the manual that came with my phone!

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772015)

typing is even more painful
Actually, this is the big difference. Japanese is entered using kana which are part of an intrinsically two dimensional alphabet. Each character is a consonant and a vowel sound. The key you press gives you the consonant, and the number of presses gives you the vowel. Even though there are more letters than with the Latin alphabet, they are much easier to type fast on a small keypad.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (2, Interesting)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774011)

Incidentally, the last japanese phone I had many years ago (a Sony Ericsson), had a scroll wheel (actually a bar) instead of up-down buttons, which made text input with the text prediction/completion system a total breeze. Unfortunately it's still the only phone I've ever seen that had a wheel. (it also had a very nice 640x480 screen, and was fairly cheap, further aggravating my irritation with the phone manufacturers)

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774729)

Aren't you forgetting about the load of Chinese characters that they use?

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775173)

No, because you don't enter kanji directly. You enter the kana, which are phonograms, and then (optionally) select the corresponding kanji (ideogram) for a short sequence of kana from a short list. It might be possible to devise an input method for entering kanji directly along the lines of cangjie, where the button presses corresponded to the start or end point of a brush stroke in a 3x3 grid. I don't know how difficult this would be, but it might be an interesting project.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20775261)

It might be possible to devise an input method for entering kanji directly along the lines of cangjie, where the button presses corresponded to the start or end point of a brush stroke in a 3x3 grid. I don't know how difficult this would be, but it might be an interesting project.
Why bother? Kana and/or romaji entry works very well as is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775805)

Because there are about a billion Chinese who don't use Kana or romanji, and could potentially be sold mobile phones at some point?

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776231)

still, no one enters kanji directly. in japanese, you have about 2200 that get use and in chinese I've heard over 7000 for daily use. even chinese use a mapping from the roman alphabet to their script, I'ev never seen a direct input method.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776547)

On a full-sized keyboard, the fastest way of entering Chinese characters is, as I originally stated, Cangjie. This is a very popular input method, helped in part by the fact that the original designer put the sample implementation into the public domain.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776943)

asking the chinese people in my office, 100% of people know how to use pinyin and cangjie is limited to those who want to go much faster(but with a much more complex method). Looks like even the professional 20 somethings don't know how to use it(the people in my office) but say there is a subset that uses it

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

gullevek (174152) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776755)

Actually this input method is only used on PCs. On mobile phones you use the direct kana input method. so each key has a group of kana (a,i,u,e,o; ka,ki,ku,ke,ko; etc). Most important thing is the "remember" function, so if you write certain words often you can choose them from a list below, so it speeds up input a lot.

The total hardcore mobile users input that with two fingers. Really amazing to see that in action ...

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20771929)

We do have laptops now days.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (0, Offtopic)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771945)

It's important here that the youth of Japan grow up in very small houses,
They are so used to small things that they'd get lost in the vast expanse of a desktop computer screen, assuming they could get one through the door. A mobile screen feels just like home.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

soundhack (179543) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772165)

This runs counter to the proliferation of large plasma and lcd hdtv's, which came out sooner than in the US.

Still, the main point is probably true. TV's may be large in Japan, but computers and game consoles must be small

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (2, Informative)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776415)

not true, computer offerings in japan( I live in tokyo) are on par with the US for size. houses are smaller but most other things are more efficient with space(including their desks, household appliances, beds, etc). game consoles are the exact same as here.

In japan though, it's common to have a 1 to 2 hour commute which is almost always done on public transportation. what does that mean? you have 2 to 4 hours a day where you can play games, check email, send messages, with NOTHING better to do! Trains are crowded so the only thing you can do is sit around and play these games or read books. Cars are far less common as a method of transportation than in the US.

In general, convenience is easy to get in Japan if you have the money. cell phone usage is generally 1 cent a text message and 20 cents a minute for talking(yeah, highway robbery). I can get GPS, a charge system to pay for goods at the convenience store, and electronic passes that cover all the public transportation systems. in new cabs, I could use my cell phone to pay rather than toting around cash.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

tkh (126785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774475)

That is so misleading. Most Japanese kids do have their own room although the size of a typical room is smaller than in the U.S.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20775259)

With the size of today's laptops, I don't think that's the issue any more. This may have been the original impetus for the phenomenon, but at this point, the cause comes more from self-perpetuation rather than an external force.

Consider that the emphasis on mobile phones caused the vast majority of Japanese content to be made available primarily by phone. The relative lack of Japanese content available to traditional web browsers means there's little interest in shelling out considerably more money for a laptop when all the content they care about can be had via their phone. In short, the people go where the content goes and the content goes where the people go.

This is the same reason why it will be hard for the US to make the transition. Whereas Japanese content started out being primarily available by phone, all of our content is available by the web and has to be made phone-friendly. Most content producers don't go to the effort since 99% of their customers access the content via a web browser anyway. This is why America will have to wait until phones can run full-featured browsers (ala iPhone) before we see Americans accessing content the same way that the Japanese do.

Re:Japanese youth does not have their own room (1)

nemoyspruce (1007869) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776665)

It's important here that the youth of Japan grow up in very small houses, where even some have beds they have to pull out from the walls. It's all about small rooms and small things.
or it could be that japanese youth have active lifestyles. They only go on the internet to get information they need, like train scheds, maps, or where to go for bargains, auctions. most highschool kids here dont like staying at home, otherwise people will call you 'otaku'. There could be a connection between average room sizes and maybe penis size, but i doubt if its the cause.

Obvoiusly (0)

cabazorro (601004) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771683)

NTT Docomo stole the mobile ninjutsu moves from the Konoha Village. Superior infrastructure leads to superior economy. Dattebayo!

they make fun of us too (4, Funny)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771699)

Re:they make fun of us too (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772403)

So with all of these all-encompassing features, the question of security/privacy has to be asked....how do the Japanese cope with the fact that since their whole lives are essentially on these phones, and the fact that they *are* wireless devices...can't people hack into them and essentially steal everything they hold so dear?

In my experience... (3, Informative)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774461)

In my experience, it does not even cross the minds of a HUGE majority of Japanese people to rip someone off. They are a very trusting people in a safe, peaceful, low crime country.

In Japan you can see unattended store displays full of expensive products (even including flat screen TVs) out on the street, but it doesn't occur to anyone to take something. You can walk down the street in the middle of the night with the equivalent of thousands of dollars in your pocket in cash and not be worried about someone mugging you. (From personal experience) You can lose your passport in one of the busiest shopping areas of Tokyo (Shibuya), walk into the police station the next day or the day after, and get it back because someone would rather turn it in than steal your identity. Hell, you can lose your wallet with money in it, and the chances are you will get it back with all of the money (though you are expected to reward the finder something like 10%). You can accidentally leave your really nice, expensive camera on the train, and easily get it back later from one of the stations on that line.

So, people don't worry about someone wirelessly stealing their ID data and stuff from their phones because generally people aren't interested in taking advantage of each other. They are interested in living a fun, good life, not in ruining the lives of others.

Yes, there are exceptions. A big one in recent years was the "Ore Ore" scam where young men would call random old people saying "It's me! It's me" and their target would say, "What? Is that you Takeshi?". The scammer, now armed with a name, would reply, "Yeah, it's me, Takeshi. I'm in trouble, grandma. I need you to send me money." And then they would get money. This scam worked because people are naïve and (sadly) old people sometimes not well taken care of by their families.

But, generally speaking, this kind of crime is not a big concern in Japan. I hope it never becomes one, because the low crime rate is one of the things I truly loved while living there.

Re:In my experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20776093)

There are a few (but growing) no. of Chinese students who dabble in scamming and a few (but growing number) of Nigerians involved in scams and prostitution and a few Eastern Europeans in the same things. So maybe the native Japanese don't have a scamming trait (at the moment anyhow) but there are others who do.....

Re:In my experience... (1)

nemoyspruce (1007869) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776779)

i totally agree. id give you mod points if i had it. Its sad that some people dont understand and try to take advantage of it.

Re:they make fun of us too (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775209)

That video is clearly inspired by Get Perpendicular. At least in absurdness.

Give the people what they want... (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771707)

...and they will come to you and love your product and weave it into their lifestyle. Simple as that.

Give the people barely any service for their money, and they will use it only as much as they entirely have to and look for alternatives.

Re:Give the people what they want... (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771895)

> Give the people barely any service for their money, and they will use
> it only as much as they entirely have to and look for alternatives.

Thus the American corporate approach: do your damnedest to make sure there are no alternatives.

Biometric interfaces (3, Interesting)

gr8dude (832945) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771739)

I've seen such a "square tattoo on paper". My guess is that they use the phone's built-in camera to photograph it, and some software to process the image and interpret it (like scanners do with bar-codes).

Some phones also come with swipe fingerprint sensors; can anyone provide technical details of these sensors? Do they comply with BioAPI or HA-API? Is there a way to interact with them via a computer?

Why no videophones? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771779)

What they are less keen on is video calling: in Japan, as in the UK, 90% say "no thanks, never".

Why? I for one think it would be pretty neat to have a mobile videophone, and it sure seems like it's within reach of today's technology. Just put another cheap lens on the same side of the phone that has the display. The only major thing I can see that will halt widespread adoption is the outrageous prices the cellular companies will want to charge for it.

Re:Why no videophones? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772085)

Pretty much any phone sold in the UK has this functionality. I've never used it, but apparently it's more popular with teenagers. Providers like Three give fairly cheap rates for video calling, but mine doesn't (actually, I have no idea what it costs, but I vaguely remember it being more expensive than a voice call). Every phone I've seen in the last few years (except the iPhone) supports it, but it's not a feature I've used.

Second (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774629)

My last two phones have had this capability, two cameras, one on each side.

I just don't like the idea of using it. I don't like speaking on the phone much, video is a step too far.

Both of these cultures are massively into text messages, what does that tell you? That they prefer offline, impersonal communication unless they are actually face to face.

Re:Why no videophones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20772309)

It already exists in Japanese cell phones, but very few people ever use this functionality.

Re:Why no videophones? (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773043)

Typical of most nerds, when I want to communicate with someone it doesn't mean I also want to see them. I perceive Japanese and Asians as more closed to themselves than Westerners, so I'm not surprised they don't like videocalling.

Re:Why no videophones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773765)

We have this in New Zealand, my whole family and I all have phones that can do it. On the local GSM/UMTS network there is no extra cost for a video call. Nevertheless apart from the obligatory call to try out the feature when the phone was new, it does not get used. I'm not sure why, but I think for most calls it does not add anything of value. If there is any noise around then it is certainly better to have the phone up to your ear rather than holding it down where the camera can see you.

Because their own faces are embarrassing! (1)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774449)

According to a survey on PC video chat [whatjapanthinks.com] at least, the top reason for not getting into it was not liking seeing their own faces on screen! Another survey on mobile phone video calls found a similar percentage of people not keen on faces.

Re:Why no videophones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20776259)

Just put another cheap lens on the same side of the phone that has the display.

That's exactly what they have on just about every mobile phone sold in Japan. The point is that the technology is there, but no one uses it. It has been around in the main stream for about 5 years now, and I've only seen it in use ONCE, by a grandmother talking to her grandchildren that live in another prefecture. Grandma can understand clicking on the "video" key and entering the phone number. Grandma either can't or doesn't care to have a computer.

The only major thing I can see that will halt widespread adoption is the outrageous prices the cellular companies will want to charge for it.

When originally introduced in Japan, yes the prices were outrageously expensive. NTT DoCoMo figured that the slow apoption and use of the technology was due to the prices. They dropped prices significantly, but still no one used it.

Think about it. I have an iSight for use with iChat, and so do some of my friends and family. We rarely EVER use it... I guess it's just more human nature to want to "talk" to someone than actually "see" them.

Techno Fashion (3, Interesting)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771863)

As an Asian (who lives in Canada), I know why Asia tends to be superior in terms of mobile technology (or really, ANY consumer technology). It's because they have a techno-centric fashion culture.

Here, the iPhone *just* hit us as the first *true* "fashion phone". You could argue the RAZR was in before that, but even that was fairly recent. In Asia they've had these things for years. Phones that rival jewelery in glitziness and price. Not to mention a society that values fashion and appearance above all else - and thus the willingness to pay a lot, and pay often, for new fashionable phones.

If Americans had the same attitude towards their phones as we do for our wardrobes, we'd be pretty durned advanced too. :P

Re:Techno Fashion (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772151)

I know why Asia tends to be superior in terms of mobile technology (or really, ANY consumer technology). It's because they have a techno-centric fashion culture.
Or is it because Japan/China/S. Korea have all the production facilities & use their countries as a test market?

One word - kaizen (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773001)

I don't think you can consider the domestic Japanese market as a "test market". The rules are very different.

Everyone in Japan has a cellphone, including children. That means the market is saturated except that it isn't. The Japanese are masters at kaizen engineering - making a series of small steady improvements on something until it is far superior to anything else. As for cellphones, there is constant pressure to upgrade your phone every ten months or so. This is encouraged by practically giving the phones away in return for a fixed contract (mine was ten months).

Cellphone usage is futher promoted by idiotic NTT policy - ~US$1000 to purchase the right to purchase a landline when I was there. There were rumors that they were going to change that, but there are always rumors in Japan.

The domestic Japanese market is a perfect breeding ground for developing killer cellphone technology and indeed, the "3g" phones that are finally available in the US approach the functionality I had in my cellphone in Japan in 2002. (I don't know why T9 dictionary support is so terrible when it is much harder to support inputing Japanese text and the Japanese phones I had all had decent input methods).

Re:Techno Fashion == who needs it? (1)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772487)

It's because they have a techno-centric fashion culture.

I agree that's a far bigger force there than here.

I looked at the site [boohooforyou.com] another poster linked to, and found a list of 20 features of Japanese phones. A few of them seem pretty neat. For example,

#16 privacy screens and

#20 waterproof

seem like worthwhile additions to a phone. Then there are a few more which might be nice, though probably not on a phone:

#17 Scan barcodes

#18 Mobile GPS navigation (because who needs GPS for stationary navigation, after all?)

Most of them, such as:

#12 mobile fashion consultant

#13 mobile live TV and

#19 electric wave posters (uses RFID)

sound like things I wouldn't have on a bet.

Obviously my life isn't driven by a need to conspicuously consume techno-fashion.

We can't get phones with features like ``#2 Manga on mobile'' because too many of us would pay extra to avoid them.

Re:Techno Fashion == who needs it? (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774495)

Even a GPS map nevermind navigation on a cell phone would be invaluable to me. Whether using Public Transit, or walking somewhere, or simply if I ever get marginally lost, it would be fantastic. Gimme gimme gimme.

Re:Techno Fashion == who needs it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20776691)

Sprint here has Manga on Mobile now. Mostly TokyoPop.

Re:Techno Fashion (1)

AgentGibbled (688180) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772613)

There is certainly an element of that, but I expect it has to do in much larger part with the price. Mobile data simply isn't affordable here in Canada (for sure) and the US (I think). If I want to do something simple like read a normal text-only email (not SMS -- actual email) I have to buy a several-hundred-dollar "smartphone" handset (there's no good reason the cheap normal handsets couln't do email -- the Japanese ones do it, I've seen it myself) and pay for an oppressively expensive "data" plan that costs twice as much per month as my home broadband connection, and even that is just 25MB of data. Probably fine for text-only email, but that'll get used up pretty quick if you try to do something crazy like surf the web and happen to hit any non-"mobile friendly" pages. It's just not a good value proposition to me (although it apparently is to some people). I'd happily use email rather than voice in most cases, but not if it's many times the price.

These sorts of services won't show up here in any real way until they can be reasonably used by the average person with the $50 handset and the $20/month plan. I'm sure it will happen eventually, but not until providers change priorities from "Downloadable Games and Ringtones!" to making services that are actually useful affordable. Sadly, the average North American consumer doesn't appear to be ready to demand that just yet.

Re:Techno Fashion (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775233)

Now there, I think you're giving the Americans a little too much credit. We're not a particularly well-dressed culture, unless you count the extremes.

We're also really, really, really fat [wellingtongrey.net].

So, no. Americans don't tend to give a damn about what other people think of them.

Re:Techno Fashion (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776109)

Now there, I think you're giving the Americans a little too much credit. We're not a particularly well-dressed culture, unless you count the extremes.

Wayyyy too much credit -- as always, there are many exceptions, but for the most part America is one of the worst-dressed first-world countries I've experienced. I guess it's a combination of conservatism, obsession with low price over all else, a generally kind of laid-back individualistic culture, and a sort of "anti-urbanism" (the well dressed people you do find in the U.S., are almost always in NYC or other urban areas).

Re:Techno Fashion (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775983)

First we gotta get paid enuff on average to afford all that shit without being in debt. As inflation rises the consumer continues to get screwed as pay does not equally rise to accommodate. Everyday you are worth less than the day before.

We need content (4, Informative)

jtroutman (121577) | more than 6 years ago | (#20771869)

I am a mobile user, I have a Motorola Q and an unlimited access plan. I can access quite a few sites and some of them, Google for instance, even seem to be set up to recognize that I am accessing them from a mobile device. Most, however, are not. While I can still browse eBay, Wikipedia or Slashdot even, the formatting leaves a lot to be desired. eBay is full of gigantic graphics and Wikipedia and Slashdot both format the text like this:

Why
Japan
Leads
the
Mobile
World
Posted
by
Zonk
on
Thursday
September
27,
@01:06PM
from the always-on-the-move dept.

So while I can use my mobile device to get some news and for navigation using special mobile ready apps like Google Mobile Maps, until I can access the sites that I find most relevant I'm still tied to a PC.

Re:We need content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20772047)

Hit menu, view, one column.

Re:We need content (1)

jtroutman (121577) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772223)

Wow, that makes a big difference, thanks. But still, I believe that more people will use Linux as more applications and hardware support is added, more people will use their mobile devices as more content is targeted to that platform.

Re:We need content (1)

judo_badger (812451) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775045)

I have a Q too. Try the Opera Mini 4 beta browser; it's so much better than the version of IE that comes with the Q, that it's not even close. I installed it a couple of months ago and haven't looked back. It's a Java midlet, so you'll have to install the IBM MIDP Java emulator ( info about this can be found by searching the forums at qusers.com ), but once you get it working, you'll never look back. I don't understand why all mobile browsers don't work like this.

Re:We need content (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776561)

On my Treo 650, Wikipedia comes out like

t
h
i
s

Not kidding. It displays normally if I stop the loading before the page loads completely. Slashdot gives a "page is too large to display" error (with or without pictures) but it displays everything except the bottom half of the left sidebar (it's not a cache limit). Most pages load without a problem however. The only other annoyance is that some forums come out with 2 pages worth of horizontal scrolling.

But I guess none of that will matter for long because my provider - the last one that had an unlimited data plan, and who I switched to because of this - is going to switch to a 1c/KB rate at the end of this month. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Population density is the big thing in their favor (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20772023)

It's a lot easier to roll out services in Japan than in the US. The population density is much higher. It costs much less per person to roll out the services there.

Never Say Never Again (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772135)

> What they are less keen on is video calling: in Japan, as in the UK, 90% say "no thanks, never". ...never in public, anyway. "Oh, come on! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!"

population density (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772429)

I'd say that it was the the extremely high population density of Japan has made it easy for the mobile market there to be successful early on. The ratio of phone users to masts is going to be high in most of the country, so the providers could be sure of good early returns on investment, leading to the tech developing much faster than elsewhere.

Re:population density (1)

jellie (949898) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773459)

It's also the small area that make it easy for companies to offer cell phone service. In addition to having a high population density, it's relatively easier to have enough cell towers to provide coverage over all of Japan, versus a larger country like the U.S. Though I really wish there were more options here; all the major cell phone companies in the U.S. suck.

Video calling (2, Interesting)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772435)

What they are less keen on is video calling: in Japan, as in the UK, 90% say "no thanks, never".
That will change when someone finally invents software to change not only your voice, but your on-screen appearance, to any popular persona of your choice.

If you think ringtones of popular songs sell well, or custom voices to make your GPS sound like Mr. T, imagine how well the "Jessic Alba" and "Brad Pitt" video chat disguises would sell.

video calling is fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20772509)

video calling is fun.
I do it almost every day.
I call home to my kid and she loves this too. My wife calls me or I call her when one of us need advice and video makes it easier. Why waste time and try to describe something when i can just make a quick video call and thats it.

Cost (4, Informative)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772601)

The reason the mobile internet has not taken off in the UK is very simple: bandwidth cost.

We have the same flashy gadget laden phones that the japanese do, and, I believe, with not too much of a lag anymore. However after the mobile companies paid £4-5bn each for 3G frequencies they needed to get their money back and they decided to get it through bandwidth charges. Until very recently a typical charge per Mb was between £5-£10 (US$10-$20).

Very recently (like in the last 8 weeks) they have begun to fall, but I can't imagine why it didn't take off before, can you?

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773301)

Really? I just this morning picked up a Nokia N95 from T-Mobile, who are charging me £7.50 a month ($15) for unlimited web access (fair use policy falls at about 2GB), and I know they were offering this 8 months ago when my ex-girlfriend got her new phone. Maybe if you have a PAYG phone, or an operator who like to charge through the nose for data (Orange are probably the worst), then you could have been looking at that much, but if you are looking for data plans in the UK, they are easy to come by at good prices.

Re:Cost (1)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773399)

and I know they were offering this 8 months ago
Show me.

T mobile are the only uk mobile operator charging a flat fee even now and they certainly weren't doing it 12 months ago when I got my phone.

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20775563)

The earliest reference I can find (T-Mobile don't press release their price package changes for some reason) is from 14th November 2006, where the MDA Compact III is launched, at a price of "£59.99 when purchased on the Flext 35 tariff plus web'n'walk (£42.50 per month)**."

Press Release here: http://www.t-mobilepressoffice.co.uk/press/uk-releases/release.php?release=uk/2006/14-11-06-mdacompact3.htm [t-mobilepr...fice.co.uk]

They lead because (1, Insightful)

twbecker (315312) | more than 6 years ago | (#20772671)

they put up with the bugs of new tech. I heard somewhere that the reason cutting edge tech is always available in Japan first is that the Japanese are far more willing to put up with what we in the west would consider not ready for prime time. I guess they value whiz-bang features more than something that just works. Also, it doesn't hurt that the country is so small that it's relatively easy to roll out whatever infrastructure is required for such things.

Re:They lead because (1)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773261)

Either you are trolling or you really don't know what you are talking about. The Japanese have always been way ahead in terms of gadgets and most electronic technologies and it's nothing to do with putting up with crap before everyone else.

I have a friend who has lived in Japan for 10 years and he was able to picture message and make video calls way before we had it over here (UK) and even now the quality of his phone in terms of photo and video messaging is still ahead of anything we get over here.

video calling in teh US (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20774933)

I was using cu-seeme on a mac 6400 and video calling my relatives in 97, over a 19.2 k connection. Video (on my end, relatives had cable connection) was just a fast moving series of stills (their end they said it was smoother like a real movie), but it was doable and it worked, and the audio was fine. That's one decade ago even now.

I know (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773049)

If hentai manga is any indication, and I think we can all agree that it is, Japan leads the world in mobile phone use because of all the people using their phones to take pictures and make movies of sex acts.

No to mobile video calling (1, Insightful)

paj1234 (234750) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773109)

Because mobile phones are primarily used for lying. For example, telling your wife you're late at the office, while in bed with your mistress.

Companies are not interested... (2, Insightful)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773411)

in giving consumers what the consumer wants. The compaines only want to gouge you for the limited services that they offer. That's the North American way.

Re:Companies are not interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773617)

I totally agree. I for one would like a phone you can make calls with. And maybe send sms. It would have to be small and light and have long battery life and resistance to a few bumps now and then. That's it.

No bells. No whistles.

Small country (2, Insightful)

trickonion (943942) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773455)

Because their country is as big as most of our states. When you can replace your entire cellular infrastructure with that few towers you better damn well be in the lead.

Re:Small country (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773903)

It is not a simple as that, since a high population density calls for a high cell density as well. Plus Japans mountainous terrain makes coverage planning difficult too.

Face it, the USA has dropped the ball on the whole cellular thing. Australia has more advanced cellular networks than the USA, despite an even lower population density.

Look at what was available in May or March 2004 (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773519)

http://www.techonline.com/product/underthehood/193100895 [techonline.com]

I bought one for one YEN (one PENNY) in Dec 04, the price being so low because the Yodabashi salesman said "It's already obsolete". Early adopters only 5 or 8 months earlier might have paid US$250 to $350.

Now, if only Samsung would remodel the A900M to be similar to the now-retired V402SH made by Sharp....

But, I think South Korea's mobile and data electronics prowess should be examined and compared to Japan, as well as Europe. Better cells are definitely OUTSIDE of the USA.

simple (2, Interesting)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20773557)

The vast majority of Japanese spend a great deal of time on public transport, often (during rush hour) standing. Japan has a culture where it is considered bad manners to speak on your phone on public transport. Hence, to stay in touch with your friends, and to pass the time, you need a one handed device you can use to email, surf the web and whatnot.

Incidentally, the Japanese also have better wired internet access. The vast majority can get fiber to the home at a reasonable price.

]{

Re:simple (1)

FirstTimeCaller (521493) | more than 6 years ago | (#20775303)

Incidentally, the Japanese also have better wired internet access. The vast majority can get fiber to the home at a reasonable price.
You're not kidding. I was able to purchase a day's worth of internet access for 500 yen. That's less than US$5.00! This was both at the hotel and at Narita airport. Here in Washington state I can purchase online access on the state ferry for about $3.00 for 15 minutes. Somethings not right...

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20776345)

Japan has a culture where it is considered bad manners to speak on your phone on public transport.

Only partially true...

When cell phones first started popping up in large numbers, people were using them everywhere. Yes, in Japan. Trains, restaurants, what not. It was irritating, and quickly new "rules" (proliferated via posters etc. and in-train annoucements) made it clear that this was not kosher. I guess the difference is that Japanese people are more likely to follow rules than Americans and Italians... not necessarily meaning they're better mannered to start with. They aren't. (I'm Japanese, I'm qualified to say this.)

the wedding photographer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20773623)

Every time I do a wedding in Japan the cell phones come out. I see a flood of lighted screens as the people turn to take stills and video of the bride. When I ask for directions or the train schedule, out comes the cell phone with internet access and I'm shown a map or schedule online. It's quiet on the train because so many people are doing text messages or games on the cell phone. The book store, the magazine rack and the shopping aisle are important sources of information captured and stored by the cell phone camera. It's the Japanese alternative universe.

Because... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20774181)

they are small, and therefore have small fingers.

Poor quality reporting from the Gruaniad (1)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774527)

That photo is not of One Seg TV watchers, as the phones are about two year old models and they do not have TV aerials. Next "Yasuko San" - that should be "Yasuko san" most likely; San is not her surname!

Anyway, I'm just bitter that they seem to have nicked all their stats from my website [whatjapanthinks.com] without any credit!

Re:Poor quality reporting from the Gruaniad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20776669)

That's nice, but you, yourself take, nay, appropriate, other people's stats and put them online, so what is your complaint based on? Oh, self-promotion.. Got it!

Commuting + Small Houses = Greater Mobile Usage (1)

jon_cooper (746199) | more than 6 years ago | (#20774887)

The title says it all, really. The Japanese face long commutes by public transport and so there is a huge market for entertaining and providing services for a mobile market. If you spent two hours or so a day on a train/bus, you'd want to browse the net, etc. It used to be reading manga, books and newspapers, but mobiles are providing an alternative to that. Is it a coincidence that Japan has the highest newspaper reading audience in the world? The other factor is that Japanese have small houses/apartments and so go out to restaurants and bars, etc far more often than people who have a nice big comfortable home to relax in after work and at weekends. Also, no garden and little house maintenance = more free time to go out. You just have to look around the entertainment districts of Tokyo at the incredible variety of eateries, bars, etc to realise what sort of lifestyle Japanese people enjoy. Add to that a generally non-technophobe populus who are very fashion-conscious about their clothes and accessories (inc tech), then you have a mobile phone dreamland. The greater mobile phone usage together with favourable conditions for a high-speed mobile network has put Japan at the forefront of mobile technology.

not only mobile (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20775247)

In fact, it's not only mobile world but also every products.

Do you believe that every 6 months you will see CMs for new washer, new refridge, new TV, etc. While it's clear that they already have the best products for anything, they are still doing this.

They are freak and obsessed to keep introducing new products. This makes them to do nothing but "kaizen".

And more importantly, since you don't have any other place to spend your money in Japan, you will end up buying new products every some months.

An opinion as a Japanese living in the U.S. for 5 years.

Another theory... (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 6 years ago | (#20776879)

I've been to japan a number of times. My wife was born and grew up there. My theory is simple. People in Tokyo do not own cars. OK a few do but most don't. If you are a kid (anyone who has not yet graduated from collage.) here in California nearly every last dime you make goes to paying for a car or gas, maintainance or insurance for same. What if there was no car? What elese to spend money on? Cloths and gadgets. Here when kids want to impress each other they buy stuff and bolt it onto their car like $1,000 wheel covers and big stereo speakers but if you don't have a car you gotta buy stuff you can carry around. Even if you are not out to impress - and many aren't there is still this large disposable income that comes with not having to pay for a car and it care and feeding.

One more Factor: While it sounds obvious, almost _everyone_ in Japan is Japanese. almost everyone is middle class and more than half have collage degrees. How does one make themselves stand out from the crowd?

Also if you go there or live there you will spend a lot of your time outside walking or on a train or just "out". Anything wired would never have much of a chance to be used
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