iPhone: Don’t Believe the Hype?

August 5, 2008 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

My brother was one of the thousands to get an iPhone when it came out on July 11. He lives in the sticks of southern Kyushu so all he did was glide into the store and lay down the cash. It was a breeze compared to Tokyo. When it comes to cell phones, Japan is a bountiful candy store. Even so, he and every other tech geek was itching to get this new American idol. It’s sleek, comes with a multi-touch display, and if Americans were lining up for it then, goddamnit, so should they.

Soon after bringing home his new toy he realized things were amiss. For one, both phone and 3G Wi-Fi signal were spotty. Granted, rice fields outnumber cell phone towers in the area, but then again he’s never had problems with previous phone carriers.

And when he finally started texting friends, it never went through. iPhone carrier Softbank (no, not a bank) created exclusive email addresses for their customers (@i.softbank.jp). But they’re so exclusive that other cellphones are unable to recognize it, so they’re filtered out. My brother fell completely out of the loop with friends. Like many young people today, he prefers to text than call. Must’ve been like being the only kid benched on the playground.

There’s other drawbacks with this new phone: not being able to use cute emoticons integral for playful conversation; having to use both hands to operate the thing; and not having a loophole built in for charms. These all might seem trivial to most Americans. But believe me, for Japanese school girls it’s like removing oxygen from the atmosphere. I nearly died after coming back to the U.S. and realizing I couldn’t string in my Hello Kitty plushie to my clunky Nokia.

So obviously the brains behind the 3G iPhone were drinking on the job when they decided to approve the phone for the Japanese market. But the question remains: Why would thousands of people line up for hours, or in some cases days, to purchase an obviously flawed product? My guess is that they were simply attracted to iPhone’s unique touch screen. That’s something completely new to them. But $200 for something you can press your greasy fingers against? Silly, if you ask me. Then again, this is a country that eats bread topped with corn and mayonnaise. Silly is the norm.


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August 2008


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