Top Japanese cell phone innovator praises iPhone

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Porcinet, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. Porcinet macrumors newbie

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    #1
    Found on Japantoday:
    Source:
    http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/top-japanese-cell-phone-innovator-praises-iphone

    Top Japanese cell phone innovator praises iPhone
    Friday 22nd August, 04:04 PM JST

    TOKYO — One of Japan’s top cell phone innovators says that for all his country’s technological prowess, it could never have produced the iPhone.

    Japan’s telecommunications industry stifles the kind of creativity that is so apparent in Apple Inc.’s Web-surfing phone, says Takeshi Natsuno, who developed Japan’s first Internet-linking cell phone service “i-mode” in 1999, when such systems were still ground-breaking.

    “This is a great device,” he said, affectionately fingering a black iPhone 3G during an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “This kind of device cannot be produced by Japanese manufacturers. Never.”

    While Japanese cell phones offer similar features as the iPhone, they lack its easy-to-use touch panel and slick design, he said.

    Natsuno, 43, who quit top Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo three months ago, expressed disenchantment with this nation’s phone industry, which he said was dominated by stodgy conservatives, who lacked the charisma and creative sensibilities of a Steve Jobs, chief executive at Cupertino, California-based Apple.

    Japanese society is very tech-savvy, and people routinely use cell phones to buy things, exchange e-mail, do restaurant searches, watch movie downloads and play video games.

    Natsuno’s i-mode _ a key part of Japan’s mobile technological innovation _ became a hit when the rest of the world was using cell phones for old-fashioned chatting. Natsuno also led the foray into third-generation mobile phones, as well as “wallet phones” that allow electronic payments.

    Yet throughout his interview at the Tokyo office of Dwango Co., a mobile service company where he serves as adviser, Natsuno, grumbled about the shortcomings of Japan Inc.

    Sporting a pale jacket, no tie and long hair, Natsuno scoffed at the stereotype Japanese businessman as boring in their obsession with technology for technology’s sake.

    “They have to take a risk,” said Natsuno. “To do that, clear direction, clear vision, clear leadership are necessary.”

    The iPhone, introduced in Japan last month, has drawn long lines although it still makes up a tiny portion of Japan’s 115 million cell-phone market, and even Natsuno acknowledged he carries around a DoCoMo handset because the iPhone lacks some handy Japan-style features such as the wallet phone.

    Natsuno, now professor of policy management at Keio University, warned that Japan’s telecommunications business is doomed unless it can change quickly.

    Older Japanese technology had compatibility problems with other global standards, but new third-generation technology allows new products to be used outside the country, and can be more easily adapted to overseas products.

    He believes Japan has only a few years left to take advantage of global business opportunities before rivals, including Nokia Corp. of Finland and South Korean Samsung Electronics Co., dominate and make it harder for Japanese mobile businesses to expand globally.

    Still, possibilities for innovations are boundless, according to Natsuno, who has written two books on mobile technology.

    Imagine a “virtual keyboard” popping up like a scene from a science fiction movie, or artificial intelligence in a handset that can talk with its user, he said, his enthusiasm clearly visible.

    And what counts is everyday life, not technological prowess, said Natsuno.

    “I’m proud of making my idea a part of Japanese people’s life,” he said of “i-mode.”
     
  2. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    #2
    Reminds me of this article I read in a Japanese computer magazine where a few cellphone experts gathered and discussed the iPhone. Despite the lack of some key features available with the Japanese cellphones (such as "one-seg" TV tuner and "mobile wallet"), the consensus was that the iPhone was going to be a real threat to the Japanese cellphone market, and that no Japanese companies would be able to produce anything like it.
     
  3. Ish macrumors 68000

    Ish

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    #3
    Wish we had wallet phones and the infrastructure over here!
     
  4. kdarling macrumors demi-god

    kdarling

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    #4
    Unfortunately, the public doesn't share his enthusiasm.

    iPhone sales are far below predictions in Japan.

    Originally predicting a million sales a year, they're now hoping for a hundred thousand.

    Is it the chosen carrier? Is it the lack of Japanese specific features?
     
  5. PredatoryWasp86 macrumors member

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    #5
    it's probably the lack of a hello kitty model
     
  6. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    Cost is a big factor.

    If I purchase the iPhone over a 24 month period, I will pay about $44 to $87 per month.

    This is for unlimited data.

    Phone call wise, between SoftBank phones it is free from 0100 to 2100 daily including Saturday and Sunday. Calls cost 42 yen per minute to non SoftBank cell phones 24/7 and to SoftBank cell phones between 2100 and 0100.

    So say you need to talk an hour per month to non SoftBank phones. It would cost you about an additional $25 to make your phone calls. Let's say you average 2 hours of talk time per month, you are talking a monthly bill of $94 to $137.

    That is a bit steep for many folks.

    I wish DoCoMo had the iPhone.
     
  7. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    #7
    You gotta be kidding me. I'm glad Softbank landed the deal with Apple. I don't live in Japan anymore, but if DoCoMo were the iPhone carrier, I would probably never buy an iPhone there.

    The cost may look steep, but compared with the monthly charges for other cellphones in Japan, I don't think it's that much more expensive.

    One big issue with the iPhones in Japan is that a lot of people had the wrong expectations when they bought one. The Japanese cellphones are packed with features unique to the Japanese market (such as cellphone-specific, emoticon-laden e-mail), and many early adopters did not realize that they were buying a smartphone targeted at the global market instead of another Japan-only cellphone. Can you imagine some of those buyers did not even have a PC at home? iPhone forums in the Japanese SNS called "Mixi" are filled with questions like "How can I sync my iPhone using a computer at an Internet Cafe?" Doh!
     
  8. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    Nope. DoCoMo coverage is the best, then AU then last, but not least SoftBank.

    As a current DoCoMo customer, I would already have one.

    It is when you have been a long time customer. The discounts are very nice.

    Initially yes because there was a dearth of info it seemed.

    Now, consumers can make a much more informed decision.
     
  9. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    #9
    I agree with you on the coverage. That doesn't mean I like DoCoMo. NTT used to be a nationally-owned company, and they still show this "Only We Will Prevail" kind of arrogance all over the place. I'd personally much rather root for David than Goliath. :)

    BTW, I rent a cellphone from Softbank when I go to Japan. Their coverage is pretty good as far as I'm concerned. (I usually stick around in the Osaka-Kobe area.)

    I guess I'm drifting off-topic here... :eek:
     
  10. kdarling macrumors demi-god

    kdarling

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    #10
    Thanks for the interesting responses.

    I've said since the beginning, that requiring a computer to even activate the iPhone, was going to be an Achilles heel, especially when trying to go global.

    It's good that Apple implemented Over The Air application downloads.
     
  11. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    Well, Japan is a special case where more people access the Web and do e-mail via cellphone than via PC. It is because the cellphone industry developed its own Web, SMS and e-mail standards when most people did not own a computer.

    I don't think there's much wrong with Apple's model, which treats iPods (and iPhones) essentially as portable extensions to computers.
     
  12. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #12
    Apple has, for the most part, kept their product hardware the same from country to country.

    It will be interesting to see if they start to change that with the iPhone. There's little use for the 'wallet' feature on a U.S. phone. Will they ever make a Japan-only model that features this kind of addition?

    Seems to me that they'll have to in order to compete there. But I've yet to see Apple make those kind of regional alterations before on a large scale. It would certainly be new territory for them, but I hope they do it.
     
  13. kdarling macrumors demi-god

    kdarling

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    Mild disagreement. I don't think Apple treats their mobiles as computer extension, since the mobile apps don't run on the desktop, and access to the mobiles is restricted.

    I think Apple treats their mobile devices as locked to a single point of money transfer and control (the desktop computer with your iTunes account). Unlike, say, WM where you can easily move data around between computers via the mobile device.

    GSM may be all around the world, but there'll be many markets where having to be near a computer with broadband access isn't going to be possible.
     
  14. nastebu macrumors 6502

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    #14
  15. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    I doubt Apple would ever implement features specific to a single market. I could easily see Apple telling those who want a "mobile wallet" on the iPhone to look elsewhere, saying "iPhone is not for you, then."
     
  16. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    Well, this is easy to imagine because it IS the way Apple is now.

    My thought is more along the lines of 'will Apple be willing to go this way in teh future?'

    Right now, in 2008, I don't think they need to. They're selling more iPhones than they can make and the company is growing at an amazing rate. But I'm talking long-term goals here. What is Apple going to look like in the year 2028? Do they want to be the next Sony?

    If so, they'll eventually have to start paying more attention to regional market needs like this one, and compete in each market individually.
     
  17. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    #17
    I'm sure Apple would be willing to break down a bit if that gains a lot. For instance, the Japanese language input method with firmware 2.0 has vastly improved over that of the previous version. In addition to the QWERTY keyboard, Apple now provides the 12-key interface found in the Japanese cellphone. :)
     
  18. Manzana macrumors 6502a

    Manzana

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    #18
    wow. If a guy in a country where cell phones are clearly ahead in terms of technology and function says this about the iPhone, it really hits home how far behind iphone the cell phone industry is in our country.
     
  19. kdarling macrumors demi-god

    kdarling

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    #19
    I'm sure it did, but by ten subscribers or fifty thousand, it's impossible to tell.

    We always have to go to the source, to see what these copy-cat articles are mangling. (Like today, all the articles blaring "Verizon signs with Google", when that actually hasn't happened yet.) The trouble with the net today is that it's paid for by click-ads, so everyone wants lots of readers even if they have to lie to get them.

    The source article is here... Tech News. In part, it says...

    The number (of cancellations with MNP) temporarily increased after the iPhone was released, said a spokesperson from KDDI's PR Department. "SoftBank's other handsets might have drawn interest in the wake of the iPhone's release as well," the spokesperson said. "We are, however, not sure if the impact will continue from now."

    Sounds like the first few days of the original US launch, with some increased movement between carriers.

    Regards.
     
  20. t0mat0 macrumors 603

    t0mat0

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    #20
    I think doing low sales in more countries still = more net sales. 20 odd more countries = more sales any way you look at it. A low sales count in Japan or elsewhere is better than not selling at all - it is a shame there aren't decent stats on "halo effects" - or seeing accurate levels of Mac sales before and after iPhone sales for a country for example.
     
  21. tomashi macrumors regular

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    #21
    The guy sounds out of his game and just looking to make some sound bytes. Japanese are far more interested in watching tv and sending each other cool txt/emails that they can only do with their current cell phones.

    Sure iPhone looks cool and what not, but it's not making waves over there like it is here.
     
  22. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #22
    This will probably remain the same for a while.

    That's a good question.

    At first, this seemed like a cool idea. The problem, is that the wallet is tied to your bank account via your cell phone. So if you loose your cell phone, someone could go hog wild spending your electronic cash. Even places like Yodobashi Camera take this kind of payment.

    Amongst my Japanese friends, at first they liked this idea. Now they seem to be going back to the separate cash cards (Suica and PassMo) for security. If you have one of these cards and it is not tied to your bank account/credit card, then the most you can loose is what you have charged it with. Suica will max out at $200. So if you just charged your card, then lost it, that is the most you could loose.

    Anyhow, it will be interesting to see if Apple adopts country specific features.

    Right now, I would tend to agree.

    A year or so down the road, Apple may need to do this to be competitive.

    Text/E-mails I would agree.

    Watching TV, it seems most try it out at first, then become bored with the feature and don't use it much after 1-2 months. Reception issues in some places make TV viewing

    I would tend to agree. But I think this remains to be seen.
     
  23. daihard macrumors 6502a

    daihard

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    #23
    Yeah, it probably remains to be seen. I still don't think Apple would make a huge change to their products just for one market, but I can see them bending more and more down the road. Like I said above, they already cater to the Japanese market by adding the Japanese-style 12-key virtual keyboard for Japanese language input. The same can be said about the handwriting recognition system for Chinese.

    Agreed. When I was back in Japan last December, a friend of mine proudly showed me his Sharp Aquos cellphone with a one-seg TV tuner. I was like, hey, I'd rather watch TV on my 45-inch Aquos TV at home. :)
     
  24. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #24
    Software wise, it's not a big deal to add features.

    Hardware wise, is where it really becomes an issue. On a side note, I wonder if Apple would add hardware that is only enabled in certain markets?

    That's a good point.

    I've had a number of friends with the Sharp Aquos cell phone, and other versions as well. As first they really like to show it off the TV feature. But save for one friend, who watches TV on the bus to and from work (about 30 minute ride) to catch the news, none use the TV feature. Once bragging rights fade, the feature itself seems to fade.

    I've found the same to be true with many features. Video chat was another one when it was new. Everyone was talking about it and trying it out with their friends. They new it was expensive, but the true cost hadn't sunk in yet. Some friends let me try out their phones. It was fun. New. Exciting if you will.

    Then a couple of months later, no one wanted to use this feature. I wondered why. Well, you see about that time there were all receiving their phone bills. Video chat was very expensive -- about $1 per minute for each person. Phone bills were huge. The video chat simply cost too much to be worthwhile.

    IMHO, phone call cost is one of the negatives of the iPhone. With the White Plan, calls cost 42 yen per minute to non SoftBank cellphones. That adds up quickly.
     

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