Archive for November 20, 2007

Japanese Cell Phones: Why Leave Home?

When it comes to cell phone technology, Japan is light-years ahead. Back in the mid-90s while every American toted clunky Nokia handsets, Japan was knee-deep in ultra-slim phones available in every color of the rainbow. Then after reaching razor-thin heights, cell phones started bulking up for built-in cameras with resolution now as high as 5 megapixels.


These days, Japanese cell phones aren’t only about snapping and yapping away. Of course there’s text messaging, which spawned a new world of smiley icons and heart-embedded conversations between girls and boys everywhere. With the help of 3G technology which connects at speeds up to 2.4 Mbps – nearly as fast as a cable modem – mobile internet access is standard issue. But how about using your cell to pay for the commuter train? Just pass your phone over a sensor at the gate and you’re in.

Now it’s all about barcodes. During my trip to Japan last month, I spotted a square, black imprint on the corner of nearly every poster, magazine and snack box imaginable. Scan over your phone and can get the latest information on promotions, reviews, nutritional content, and more. When the technology was first introduced last year, over 400,000 products had already implemented this barcode technology. I even found a barcode on a flyer posted in a university bathroom. (Hmm, is Big Brother watching me?)


A cell phone function young boys have taken to is mobile gaming. Not just Tetris and minesweeper but popular role-playing games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. In the middle of rush hour, I found a kid on the train slumped against the door helping his avatar fend off fire-breathing dragons. He was so absorbed by it he nearly fell out of the train.

People have been watching TV from their cell phone and these days they’re even writing novels. One young woman wrote a book completely from her phone and later sold 400,000 copies after publishing a hardcover version. She continues to write cellular novels but admits that she sometimes falls asleep on the job.

Truthfully, hearing about all the things Japanese cell phones can do makes me jealous. But one thing they don’t have is the iPhone. My brother, who lives in Southern Japan, envies the fact that I can go to the Apple Store right now and pick one up if I wanted to. It’s a little much for my budget but maybe I’ll do it just out of spite. =P



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November 20, 2007 at 11:24 am 12 comments

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November 2007


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