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The Internet Communications Toys

Why Japan Leads the Mobile World 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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Why Japan Leads the Mobile World

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  • awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:11PM (#20771569) Homepage
    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?
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:12PM (#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.
  • by fluor2 ( 242824 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:18PM (#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.
    • by n3tcat ( 664243 )
      Seoul, Korea or India spring to mind instantly.

      There are several heavily populated places in the country where people must live in this fashion.
    • 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 aga
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:43PM (#20772015) Journal

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fbjon ( 692006 )
          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)
          • by leenks ( 906881 )
            You forget the Nokia 7110 [robgalbraith.com], which was massively popular in the UK after "The Matrix" (because everyone thought it was 'that phone' when it wasn't).

            Based on my own ownership, I think this was the most popular phone ever (I had 6 of them in a year!). Either that or thin sliding covers with sprung trigger actions really aren't the best idea in the world ;-)

            One of the most usable phones I've owned though.
        • Aren't you forgetting about the load of Chinese characters that they use?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
            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.
        • 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 ...
        • Also, most modern Japanese typing programs automatically convert kana (Hirigana and Katakana) into Kanji (The Chinese calligraphy-based alphabet). If you use Japanese in Windows, you'll see how it works.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by QuickFox ( 311231 )

      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.
      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by gordo3000 ( 785698 )
          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
    • by tkh ( 126785 )
      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.
    • 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.

  • NTT Docomo stole the mobile ninjutsu moves from the Konoha Village. Superior infrastructure leads to superior economy. Dattebayo!
    • 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... (Score:4, Informative)

        by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru.gmail@com> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:12PM (#20774461) Homepage Journal
        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.

        • 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.
    • by fbjon ( 692006 )
      That video is clearly inspired by Get Perpendicular. At least in absurdness.
    • by UfoZ ( 680310 )
      You are aware that that video is a failed viral marketing campaign by Western cell phone OS vendor Symbian inc., right?

      And it's pretty much a load of bullshit. Japanese phones are nothing like that.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:19PM (#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.
    • > 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.
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday September 28, 2007 @06:39AM (#20780155)
        And that's why it fails. You know the story about sun and wind competing who gets some guy to take off his jacket?

        If you give people what they want, they will buy it because they want to have it. They will love it and they will start finding ways to use it in various ways, improving it and giving you ideas for the next version, because you've seen what people want to do with it, and many cannot do it themselves, so they will buy your next version that can do that. That's how it has been for years before the 90s, and it worked like a dream. People also simply and blindly went into the store and bought your gear, knowing that it will do what they want it to do.

        Today it's very different, just like you describe. There is no alternative, so people have to buy what's offered. They don't really want that thing, but they have no choice, so they will buy it. Some will simply refuse to buy it, because it simply isn't what they want. They will not love it. They will use it like they use a tool, for the purpose intended and nothing else. They couldn't anyway, either it's so locked down that they simply cannot use it for anything else, or it is strictly forbidden by some kind of law to use it for anything but what the manufacturer wants you to.

        In other words, today's products are inferior to what we had in the past. It's actually a shame.
  • Biometric interfaces (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gr8dude ( 832945 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:22PM (#20771739) Homepage
    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?
    • by ReKleSS ( 749007 )
      QR Codes [wikipedia.org]. You're correct about the camera; the most common use I've seen is encoding URLs.
    • The "square tattoo on paper" are called "QR codes", sometimes referred to in my previous employer's English literature as "two-dimension barcodes". You are correct, you use the built-in camera to photograph it, and then the code gets OCRed. This is fairly easy because they are square, black and white, and have positional markers at three corners, which makes them easy to read under a variety of lighting and orientations. They're even pretty robust against being lightly bent, such as what often happens wh
  • 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.

    • 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.
      • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Techno Fashion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:31PM (#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

    • 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?
      • 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
    • 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,

      • by Cecil ( 37810 )
        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.
    • 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 co
    • 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.
      • by macshit ( 157376 )
        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 d
    • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jtroutman ( 121577 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:31PM (#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:

    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.
    • Amazing! I didn't know James T. Kirk posted on slashdot!
    • 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.
    • On my Treo 650, Wikipedia comes out like


      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 prov
    • by josath ( 460165 )
      Try this:
      http://www.skweezer.net/s.aspx/-/slashdot~org/index~pl?simpledesign=1&lowbandwidth=1 [skweezer.net]

      It's what I use for reading slashdot from my cellphone.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • > 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!"
  • 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.
  • Video calling (Score:2, Interesting)

    by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 )

    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.

  • Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by nicklott ( 533496 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:19PM (#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?

  • They lead because (Score:2, Insightful)

    by twbecker ( 315312 )
    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.
    • by Mushdot ( 943219 )

      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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Small country (Score:2, Insightful)

    by trickonion ( 943942 )
    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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
  • 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 definite
  • simple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kristoph ( 242780 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:14PM (#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.

    • 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...
  • 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!

  • 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/apartm
  • not only mobile (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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 opinio
  • 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 li
  • > And as for using the mobile as a modem - to link to the internet - that's very expensive in Japan

    Actually that's not true at all. You can get flat rate mobile data (with no device restrictions) on a 3.5G cellular network for around US $45 a month. And we're not talking some kind of crappy EDGE service, this is for >1.5MBps in the real world (3.6MBps down theoretical) with latency low enough to use VOIP apps. It's just that the Big Three mobile carriers aren't that interested in supporting hea

  • by InakaBoyJoe ( 687694 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:42PM (#20778237)

    Every now and then the same myths about the Japanese mobile market come up. Here's what we've seen on Slashdot today:

    1. "Japanese live in small houses, have small fingers, and they just love small things." "The Japanese" are not some kind of lilliputian race. In fact, these days their phones are BIGGER than most current GSM models. There is indeed space for a PC in most homes, although it's true that the level of PC ownership is not as high as in the US.

    2. "Japanese are all crowded together in the cities, so it's easier to build wireless networks." Urban population percentage [un.org]: Japan - 65%, USA - 80%, Canada - 80%. In reality, the proportion of people living in the densest cities is more like Canada (the biggest wireless backwater in the world). Moreover, once you start getting REALLY dense, it becomes even harder to build mobile networks because you end up having to put base stations in weird places instead of just erecting a tower.

    3. "Mobile phones are bling in Asia." Commonly uttered by those who don't understand that Japan is not Hong Kong. High-end "fashion phones" do not drive features in Japan. DoCoMo's flagship 900 series phones have all retailed around the $200 mark [impress.co.jp]since forever. The bling that you sometimes see on the street is all aftermarket dress-up and doesn't have much to do with new features. In fact, these days, the hottest market [impress.co.jp]is the creation of high usability, large-type phones for the senior market.

    4. "Using the phone as a modem is expensive in Japan." As of 2007, also not true anymore. I posted a thread [slashdot.org] before realizing there were more myths to bust. Flat rate data for laptops is also coming from the Big Three carriers within the next month or so.

    I could go on, but when it comes to Japan, be careful whose information you trust. Lots of people who claim to know about Japan don't speak even speak the language, which continues to contribute to a lot of misinformation.

    Myths aside, I think the real reasons Japan is so far ahead have a little bit to do with culture and language, a little more to do with urban density causing carriers to push low-bandwith services (i.e., text messaging) coupled with public transport and portability factors, and a lot more to do with insanely poor telecom regulation in other areas of the world (here's looking at you, Canada).

    There are no really good reasons why we can't have the same quality of mobile services as Japan -- if only we demanded it (in large masses) from our governments, telecom carriers, and handset manufacturers. Thankfully, in the wake of iPhone and the unlocking debate it started, we might see some positive change. When we're on par with Japan, I'm going to laugh at all the pundits who claimed there was something unique about Japanese people, society, or culture that makes them so mobile-centric.

  • From the movie crazy people, "Japanese people are shorter, so they can get closer to the tiny electronics. They can better see what they're doing. That's why they're better"

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351