Why Japanese Cellphones Do Not Succeed Internationally

Japanese cellphones are not successful in the international market because of

The second line of this title includes, "And Why the iPhone Is Not Successful in Japan."

Show the iPhone to a typical Japanese and he will not be awed by its touchscreen, its 2.0-megapixel camera, or its integration with iPod.  He will instead ask a lot of questions. 

"Does it send MMS (multimedia message service)?"

"Can I use it as a debit card?"

"If I turn my phone away from my face, does it automatically shut the call?"

"Will it survive even if I drop it and a truck would run over it?"

Obviously, the answers are No.  But why those silly questions, you ask?  Actually, a "typical" Japanese smartphone can do all those and even more.

Even though the Japanese are less than half compared to the number of Americans in the United States, more than twice as many Japanese use smartphones than in America.  And those mobile phones are used extensively.  The Japanese can do so much with their phones, while the Americans can only use theirs to make calls:  E-mail your friends in 1999, take photos from your phone in 2000, make video calls in 2001, download your favorite music in 2002, buy food from vending machines in 2004, and watch digital TV in 2005.

So with all these advanced features that an average American has yet to experience in his own smartphone, why do Japanese cellphones are not successful at hitting the international market?  They actually have a term for it:  Galapagos Syndrome.  Their phones have become way too advanced that the rest of the world just could not keep up. 

Despite these sophisticated features, the Japanese phone makers have also overlooked features that the overseas market seeks in their smartphones.  Japanese phones have clunky user interfaces, usually accessing menus after several keystroke combinations (a "status symbol" in Japan, bothersome everywhere else); you cannot synchronize these phones to a PC; and the clamshell design is not favored outside Japan.

In contrast, if these Japanese mobile phones were to be distributed in the United States, some tech analysts believe that these advanced features would simply be "locked" by whoever network carrier, turning them into "premium services" that you need to pay more to enjoy.

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