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Why Japan Hates the iPhone 884

Posted by kdawson
from the one-man's-cool-is-another-man's-lame dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "With a high level of technical sophistication, critical customers, and high innovation rate, Japan is the toughest cell phone market in the world. So it's not surprising that although Apple is the third-largest mobile supplier in the world, selling 10 million units in 2008, in Japan the iPhone is selling so poorly it's being offered for free. The country is famous for being ahead of its time when it comes to technology, and the iPhone just doesn't cut it. For example, Japanese handset users are into video and photos — and the iPhone has neither a video camera, multimedia text messaging, nor a TV tuner. Pricing plans in Japan are also very competitive, and the iPhone's $60-and-up monthly plan is too high compared to competitors; a survey lat year showed that among Japanese consumers, 91% didn't want to buy an iPhone. The cellular weapon of choice in Japan would be the Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that doubles as a 3-inch TV and features 3-G, GPS, a 5.1-megapixel camera, and motion sensors for Wii-style games. 'When I show this to visitors from the US, they're amazed,' according to journalist Nobi Hayashi, who adds, 'Carrying around an iPhone in Japan would make you look pretty lame.'"
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Why Japan Hates the iPhone

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:27AM (#27011229)

    For one, the Japanese are well ahead of the West in terms of cellphone technology, as witnessed by the description of the P905i. For the Japanese, the 3G iPhone is old hat.

    In addition, unlike in the U.S., where we love Japanese products, the Japanese hate our products. They're very biased towards home-grown stuff. They typically steer clear of imports. Imports are generally more expensive in Japan due to tariffs and such, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:32AM (#27011317)

    At least here in Finland 3G with GPS and cameras are nothing new. TV would be useless because we too have our MPAA/RIAA equivalent organizations that make sure that nothing innovative can happen with the content that they control.

  • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot@davejenkins. c o m> on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:47AM (#27011491) Homepage
    Softbank is now offering the 8GB iPhone for free (with two year data plan). I saw this yesterday, and translated a quick summary on my site for the Japanese language-challenged: []
  • by putaro (235078) on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:57AM (#27011605) Journal

    Kanji input on the iPhone is as good as the other cell phones. Given that text messaging is a major use for cell phones, this is a big problem.

    The UI on the iPhone blows away Japanese cell phones (I live in Japan and I use them all the time). The reason the iPhone isn't taking off as well in Japan is the kanji support and Softbank's piss poor marketing support. They have not done a good job of differentiating the iPhone from the other touch screen phones and, in fact, SoftBank carries several other touch screen phones which is confusing.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:13AM (#27011849) Journal

    Indeed, although also in Europe, whilst perhaps not as advanced as Japan, we've still had things like 3G and Internet access in even non-"smart" phones for years, and we wonder what all the fuss is about.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:15AM (#27011877) Journal

    In the UK, ordinary phones have been able to do things like web browsing, 3G, video recording/phoning/downloading, maps, copy and paste for years, and higher end phones have been offering things like wireless and GPS on top of that for ages.

  • Apple is not third!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfanning (35979) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#27011909) Homepage

    Apple is in absolutely no way the "third-largest mobile supplier in the world".

    Not even close.

    The top are: Nokia (40%), Samsung (14%), Motorola (14%), Sony Ericsson (9%) and LG (7%). Apple is well down in the single digits. []

    On the other hand they have captured a surprisingly large share of the revenue, but only because the iPhone is a high margin product and they don't compete in the high volume area.

  • by Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:23AM (#27011987)

    but they get away with because they're a relatively small market compared to the US.

    What?! They are the second largest economy in the world... That's hardly what I'd call a "small market".

  • Re:Pretty lame? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:23AM (#27011993) Journal

    Sorry, I'll just stick with the iPhone, and upgrade to a phone based on Android when it matures.

    Similarly, I'm sticking with my Motorola V980 phone, and will upgrade to a new phone when it matures. A necessary condition for "maturity" is having basic functionality that even my years old bog standard phone has, such as copy/paste, and MMS. (Cue the "But I don't need that, so why would anyone else!" posts.)

    Japanese cellphones are way way ahead of ours? Next thing you know, you'll be telling us that third-world countries have faster interweb access than we do

    Indeed. I'm in the UK, which perhaps explains why the supposedly "new" Iphone offerings have been done here in ordinary phones for years. And people have the cheek to claim that other manufacturers are copying the Iphone!

  • by kno3 (1327725) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:25AM (#27012029)

    Why would you want to lose a lot of the screen to a touch keybpad when you can get a phone that has a separate screen and keypad?

    Is this not obvious? So that you can fill the surface of the phone with screen, therefore having a bigger screen. You use the keypad when you need it, but then if you wana watch something for example, the keypad goes and you have a nice large screen to watch stuff on.

  • No MMS. LOL. (Score:3, Informative)

    by inotocracy (762166) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:29AM (#27012095) Homepage
    When I found out that the iPhone lacked MMS I couldn't help but laugh. No MMS? Seriously? How can a mobile phone be released and not support that oh so basic functionality. Every single phone released has MMS but not the iPhone. Why exactly?
  • Re:Makes me wonder (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:37AM (#27012227)

    Just last week, I was in Shanghai and I can say that from the Magnetic Levitation train to the technology that runs and manages public transit, those folks are way ahead of us.

    Than the Europeans are ahead as well. The Shanghai Maglev is a german design.

  • by querist (97166) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:39AM (#27012259) Homepage

    The Japanese word transliterated "kawaii" is usually translated "cute" in dictionaries, and is composed of two kanji (borrowed Chinese characters), the first meaning "to be able to, to be allowed to" and the second meaning "to love" or "love". The Chinese word written the same way (ke3 ai4) is also translated as "cute" and the implied meaning from the order of the characters/words is "loveable".

    Yes, that would most likely be the word used by Japanese tweenies and teenaged (and even older) ladies. Just remember, this is the nation and culture that brought us "Hello Kitty".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:08PM (#27012681)

    Apple didn't "invent" copy/paste for god's sake, though they did popularise it. What fanboyism, sheesh, though you were inaccurate even in apple terms - the Lisa (1981) had it before the Mac. []

    Emacs had kill/save/yank functionality equivalent to or better than most cut/copy/paste until recently (since it kept a history on the "kill ring", though in the modern era such functionality exists as clipboard history daemons on linux/X11 ) basically forever.

    The Amiga had 256 independent clipboards that were also represented in the virtual filesystem layer, which was handy (though there are command line clipboard access tools under linux nowadays which are pretty much equivalently handy).

  • Mobile Web (Score:2, Informative)

    by vaxt (894676) on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:18PM (#27012833)
    This is all wrong. In Japan they have two distinct internets, which are not compatible with eachother: the regular internet, which we are used to, and the "keitai" (mobile) web. It's my understanding that the Japanese public mostly cares about the Keitai web, which is packed full of proprietary technologies. The iPhone, following global standards is completely incompatible with the Keitai web, and thus is why people don't want it.
  • Re:of course (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @12:26PM (#27012943)

    You are a child. I don't care how old you are, you have the mind and attitude of a child.

  • Re:Pretty lame? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Friday February 27, 2009 @01:17PM (#27013717)

    Indeed. I'm in the UK, which perhaps explains why the supposedly "new" Iphone offerings have been done here in ordinary phones for years. And people have the cheek to claim that other manufacturers are copying the Iphone!

    I'm genuinely curious about this. I know everyone says that non-US phones are way ahead of us, but what UK phone had amazing integration with Google maps (or any online map provider) years ago? Which UK phone had multitouch? Which UK phone had a great app store? Which UK phone had visual voice mail? Which UK phone had a full blown browser years ago? Which UK phone integrated perfectly with your music collection on your computer?

    For that matter did any non-US phone have all these features (and more) *years* ago? I accept that for the vast majority of phones available in the US vs. other countries, the US phones are generally behind the times (I'm guessing due to vendor lock-in and US cell providers trying to wring out every last penny they can from consumers for any semi-advanced features). But honestly, from my point of view the iPhone is really advanced, not just for the US market, but for every market. But I guess it's cool to hate the iPhone on slashdot and instead favor some obscure Korean phone that supposedly had all its features 10 years ago.

    For the record, no I don't own an iPhone, but I know many who do and I've used it quite a bit, and I've never seen a phone (or PDA type thing) so well put together. Every component feels so well integrated, whereas other devices feel very cobbled together to me.

  • by babyrat (314371) on Friday February 27, 2009 @01:34PM (#27013973)

    This is from a year ago...but it seems to contradict the 'flop'... []

    O2 has confirmed that the iPhone is the company's fastest selling device it has ever had in the UK, however stopped short of saying actually how many it sold in the first month and half on sale.

  • by dmizer (1081799) on Friday February 27, 2009 @01:37PM (#27014019)
    In Japan, there were already touch screen phones, and phones with full web browsers built in long before the iPhone was even announced. What you have on the iPhone now is about where Japan was around 4 or 5 years ago. The P905i mentioned in TFA was on the market in 2007 when Steve was making his iPhone keynote.
  • by supersocialist (884820) on Friday February 27, 2009 @02:03PM (#27014341) Journal
    You need to do more research. I can wirelessly sync music to my current-firmware iphone through Amarok over SSH with keyed authentication, and I'm definitely on the low end of technical knowledge when it comes to linux. There are clear, easy-to-follow wiki how-tos. To trick the iphone into reading unsigned database entries, you only have to edit a single entry in a .plist file on the phone.
  • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday February 27, 2009 @02:30PM (#27014731) Journal

    Could somebody explain what the point of a 10 MP CCD is with a typical cell phone lens being only 1.25 mm in diameter with a 3.5 mm focal length? That's like putting a Ferrari engine in a Pinto, but slightly less useful.

    By my math, the resolving power of the lens provides for a horizontal resolution (at the red end of the spectrum) of just shy of 4,000 pixels in the long direction on a cell-phone-sized CCD, and that's if the lens is ground perfectly and if the alignment between lens and CCD is also perfect. Chances are, at 3600 pixels, a 10 MP photo is probably significantly exceeding the real-world resolving power of any real-world cell camera lens unless the lens costs $10,000 to grind and is glued to the sensor....

    Not to mention that the light gathering capabilities of such a small lens are terrible and that the low light SNR of a CCD is inversely proportional to the number of pixels. Can a 10 MP cell phone camera take pictures of usable quality in anything less than the light of the sun going nova?

    Seriously, I just don't get it. It's like they're adding pixel count because they can without stopping to consider whether they should.... Above about 3 MP, a cell camera makes no sense given the lens size, quality, and mounting tolerances. Maybe 5 MP. Maybe.

  • by nekura (600099) on Friday February 27, 2009 @02:59PM (#27015155)
    It's not necessary to crack the iPhone to copy over ringtones, but it's not super simple, either. It's been a while since I've done, but if I remember correctly you just cut out the piece of song you want in your favorite audio editing program, encode that to m4a in iTunes, change the extension to .m4r, then reimport that to the Ringtones section of iTunes.
  • by eap (91469) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:04PM (#27015217) Journal

    ...The summary alone says it all - no video?

    I don't care to take up for the iPhone, but they can do video. It requires jailbreaking (not the same as unlocking), which is fairly easy to do.

    The fact that it is hardware capable of video but restricted by Apple will probably not win any fans, but just sayin', if you want to record video on the iPhone you can.

  • by quarterbuck (1268694) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#27015377)
    Actually Nokia was the original champion for this.
    Each menu on the phone is associated with a number 1= Call 2= Messages etc. and the same applies to the submenus. Most of my friends had these sequences memorized, so they could pick up a phone and type 1-2-1 and get into their received text messages menu etc. without looking at their phone.
    The cool thing was that this sequence of menu's was the same in ALL the Nokia phones, so most of the users stuck with Nokia when they upgraded.
    Later on Nokia changed their menu layout and their phone chargers causing a lot of the users to defect.
  • Lame (Score:2, Informative)

    by kalel666 (587116) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:49PM (#27015905)

    It seems Chen used an old article to quote Hayashi thusly, "Hayashi's cellular weapon of choice? A Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that doubles as a 3-inch TV. It also features 3-G, GPS, a 5.1-megapixel camera and motion sensors for Wii-style games."

    The none-too-happy Hayashi reports, "My cellular weapon of choice, of course is an iPhone... I can't agree with what Brian's article had to say and here is how I view the iPhone market in Japan." []

    iPhone Mattters today also has a related report, "The Japanese hate the iPhone so much they start four iPhone magazines." []

  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:06PM (#27016159)
    That kanji spelling of kawaii is ateji (= employing kanji that sort of match the sound and meaning of a word, but have no grounds in its etymology). The word "kawaii" comes from "kahohayusi", which then evolved into "kahahayusi", "kahayusi", "kawayusi", and finally into "kawaii". "Kahohayusi" is a compound of "kaho" , meaning "face" (kao in modern Japanese), and "hayusi", meaning "bright".

    Much like "mabayusi" (=> modern "mabusii") indicates a brightness so strong that you have to avert your eyes, "kahohayusi" literally describes a sight that you can't face. By metaphor, the original meaning of the word was "pitiable", "a sorry sight". This meaning is retained in the modern word "kawaisou", while the meaning of "kawaii" changed into "lovely, cute".

    As for how that happened, we can conjecture something like this: small, weak things are pitiful, but they can also elicit a feeling of wanting to help them; the reaction changes from "turning your face away" to "extending your hand", so to speak, and thus the feeling becomes one of attraction.

    (if you don't believe me, check the Gogen Yurai Jiten [])

    Who knows, maybe someday Japanese buyers will be moved by the pitiful, weak iPhone, and grant it a place inside their hearts. ;)
  • Re:Pretty lame? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Foochee (896249) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:27PM (#27017139)
    Here's a video of the P905i in action. []
  • Hijacking (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lars T. (470328) <> on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:31PM (#27017187) Journal []

    My cellular weapon of choice, of course is an iPhone and my cellular weapon of choice to the foreigners is INFOBAR2 and I don't even dare to charge my P905i these days.

    This from the guy misquoted in both the article and summary. The author actually asked for his opinion, but then took something from an old interview.

  • by Tokyo_Otaku (1004495) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:16PM (#27017733)
    Some of the stuff that comes up on this website just kills me some days. Every time a story comes up about Japan, and why something isn't selling there, a bunch of posters go on about what a bunch of xenophobic dicks Japanese are and how no western companies can do well there.

    To those people: You obviously don't live here, and you should consider the merits of spouting off on things with which you have no direct experience.

    I live in Tokyo. I've been here for about 6 years and have worked helping to restructure a well-known Japanese company.

    So, on to some random points:

    1) Do Japanese have a water-tight sense of national identity?


    But they are not the only ones with nationalistic issues. See also "We're #1 motherfuckers" in the US and the vague but pervasive smugness of Europeans.

    2) Are some Japanese people arrogant, screaming racists?


    And like there aren't arrogant and screaming racists in the US or Europe... No siree...

    This is often thought to be more widespread than it is, partly because foreigners are not always welcome in a number of establishments in Japan. In some cases this is indeed because they are racist.

    This is way more often the case because Japanese are not good culturally with dealing with the unfamiliar or strangers, even other Japanese. Letting the foreigner in who doesn't know the right way to behave and will freak out all the patrons is not good business.

    They are not totally unjustified in thinking that foreigners will not behave themselves, given the massive number of westerners who come here and act like total dicks, in the same way people are known to act like total dicks when visiting the Amish. I don't know how many times I have had to cringe when reading the news or standing on the train because of the obnoxious behaviour of other gaijin.

    All that said, I've seen a little old Japanese guy body-check my friend, for no other apparent reason than he was a Gaijin.

    3) Are domestic Japanese businesses insular and hard to do business with?


    Domestic Japanese companies tend to cluster together in groups, solidified with cross shareholdings. It's often times difficult for Japanese companies to work with other Japanese companies, so don't feel so picked on.

    Granted things were waaaaaay worse in the 80's. They used to rebuff ski equipment makes with bullshit excuses like, and I'm not kidding, "Japanese snow is different". It seems that Japan has collectively grown up a little since then.

    4) Japanese hate foreign brands. They only want to buy Japanese things.


    Here are a list of things that are insanely popular in Japan:

    - Starbucks
    - Louis Vuitton
    - Virtually any European fashion brand
    - Krispy Kreme (2 hours lineups just to get one)
    - iPod
    - McDonalds (there is a word for meeting there)
    - Apple products (amongst designers)
    - Hollywood movies
    - Microsoft software
    - Dell hardware
    - Cisco routers
    - etc etc etc

    Do I really need to say anything more?

    5) The XBox 360 failed in Japan because of X.


    Unless X happens to be the fact that MS massively screwed up the launch in Japan by not having a single game Japanese people wanted to play in the initial line-up. JRPGs, fighting games and simulators of all kinds. That's what they like.

    In Microsoft's defence, they have done their best to recover like champs. They obviously went right out and commissioned a bunched of JRPGs, which have all hit in the last 6 months, taking XBox 360 to the top of the hardware charts three times, including this week.

    6) Japanese don't buy the iPhone because their phones are super wicked.

    Yes and No.

    Japanese phones have been waaaaaay ahead for a long time. The phones in the US, until the iPhone and Android have been pretty much a total joke.

    That said, the
  • by Me! Me! 42 (1153289) on Friday February 27, 2009 @08:38PM (#27019099)
    What did Nobuyuki Hayashi really say before he was so badly misquoted by Brian Chen?
    Read his blog: (hint his real cellphone of choice is . . . an iPhone!?!!): []

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. -- Robert Benchley