Japan’s quirky, cloistered mobile world highlighted and challenged by Apple’s iPhone 3G

“Kentaro Tohyama is proud of his new iPhone. He stood overnight in line to get it when the device became available in Japan for the first time. But the 29-year-old computer engineer isn’t about to part with his made-in-Japan cell phone either,” Yuri Kageyama reports for The Associated Press. “That kind of cautious response to the July 11 arrival of Apple Inc.’s phone appears common in Japan.”

“The iPhone was welcomed here with long lines of gadget fans. But it’s also being seen as shockingly alien to this nation’s quirky and closed mobile world… For example, young people in Japan take for granted the ability to share phone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact information by beaming it from one phone to another over infrared connections. Being without those instantaneous exchanges would be the death knell on the Japanese dating circuit,” Kageyama reports. “While the iPhone has Bluetooth wireless links, it has no infrared connection.”

“Also missing from Steve Jobs’ much-praised design: a hole in the handset for hanging trinkets. Westerners may scoff at them as childish, but having them is a common social practice in Japan,” Kageyama reports.

MacDailyNews Take: Get an iPhone case that offers a hole for hanging trinkets. “Problem” solved.

Kageyama continues, “Softbank Corp., the Japanese carrier of the iPhone, said it sold out of the devices on the first day. But it did not reveal how many had been available. One clue comes from GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd., which said Softbank sold half of all mobile phones in Japan that day, up from a typical 19 percent.”

“Many Japanese buyers were curious about the iPhone’s sleek design. And some acknowledged that the device might show the Japanese market some new tricks,” Kageyama reports. “Tohyama’s eyes were opened by the iPhone’s quick access to the Internet, much like that of a personal computer. Some Japanese cell phones show Web pages, but access on even the latest models is slower than on the iPhone. Most Japanese phones don’t present as colorful a picture as the iPhone does… ‘Until I owned an iPhone, I didn’t see as clearly how closed Japanese content was,’ Tohyama said. ‘It was not a global standard at all.'”

More in the full article here.


  1. Ah yes, trinkets.
    You place it in the phone, and as soon as you get a call, you pull the phone out only to find that the trinket has hooked onto your “Johnson&Johnson;”.

    But maybe the asian “Johnson and Johnson” isn’t as big as the western world hence may not experience the same problem.

  2. Preemptive Raving Mad Lunatic Mac Head Comment:

    1) iPhone is a toy and I’m yawning.

    2) I have a flip phone that’s pre-paid. Apple needs this to survive.

    3) My MacBook Pro has Wi-Fi which makes it better than an iPhone.

    4) AT&T is controlled by the NSA.

    5) Obama did or will do something I don’t like and it doesn’t matter that it’s irrelevant to this thread.

  3. I find it incredible how dumb the world (or maybe its just writers) can be. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    THIRD PARTY MFG. ………. If a case mfg cannot figure out how to add a little circle of plastic to add trinkets to, or even glue on to an existing product, …….well.

    Of course the stupid comment about longer battery life just goes without comment. Especially since its asian mfg that make the plug in external battery booster. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    So we will see who will be smarter and more innovative. Making a iPhone plugin to the bottom of the unit that can read information and “beam” it to existing japanese phones. Will it be an asian company or a US company that uses just a bit of imagination and creativity.

    My guess is on the USA. After all. Who invented the iPhone??? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />


  4. Just a note to the quasi-racist opinions being expressed here …

    While the word “trinket” was used in the article, that’s just a bad translation and people’s use of it here seems intended to demean the entire practice.

    In Japan, as well as in many Asian cultures having a solid loop on a pocket device, both for securing said device to a person and for hanging fobs and tassles off of is NON-OPTIONAL.

    This just shows how little Apple understands the Japanese market and why they have had such major problems making inroads in Japan.

    The whole tassle/fob/trinket thing might be silly to people in the USA, but it isn’t to most asians and it’s wrong to make fun of it or belittle it as some are (seemingly) doing here.

    It’s almost the same as making a car without a car radio to make a cell phone for Japanese people that doesn’t have a way to attach things to it. It’s a central part of the culture and so expected that it must have been a shock for them to see a device without one.

  5. “For example, young people in Japan take for granted the ability to share phone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact information by beaming it from one phone to another over infrared connections.”

    Simple solution: Hand them your card. Call them “personal cards” or “call me” cards rather than “business cards”.

  6. I’m sorry… but the lack of a few fundamentals of the Japanese will hamper the iPhone’s adoption rate there.

    In typical fashion, I wouldn’t doubt it if the Japanese take the iPhone improve on it and introduce it to the Japanese market. It’s only a matter of time.

  7. Preemptive response to Raving Mad’s response to AMPAR

    Oh for crying out loud… we GET it ALREADY. Enough.
    We understand you don’t want an iPhone.

    Don’t get it. Prepay all you want. This is clearly not marketed at you.

    I hang at the BMWDailyNews.com site

    I see you whining over there about the price of the 750i too.

    You’re not going to get BMW USA to market the BMW to the Yugo crowd, any sooner than you are going to get Apple to market the iPhone to the prepaid crowd.

  8. I sympathize with the comment about battery life. The infrared interface is obsolete and market-specific features can be added in software, but the iPhone 3G should have come with a bigger battery (not a smaller one, which is what it has). It’s better than other 3G phones, but their battery life sucks and they have exchangeable batteries. You shouldn’t have to glom an external battery onto this thing to last through a typical day.

    On the other hand, I have noticed that the situations that really drain battery life kill it so fast that it’s a hard problem to solve. For example, games can really drain the thing dry quickly, as can GPS use. I just bought a car charger to address the GPS issue — I never needed one for my old iPhone.

  9. Ampar: Thank you.


    “My guess is on the USA. After all. Who invented the iPhone???”

    Heck, who invented the PHONE!

    Jeremy: The Japanese can take the same thing everyone else gets or go without. I don’t think it’s racist to say that they aren’t any better than the rest of the world.

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