The Japanese people are absolutely in love with their cell phones (“keitai,” in Japanese). On the train, waiting in line, or just walking around Tokyo, the main pastime, diversion, and time-killer for your average Tokyoite will somehow involve pounding digits into their cell phone. They do everything with these devices, from checking email and playing games to paying for groceries.
So you’d think that the iPhone, with all its functionality, would catch on like crazy in Tokyo. Not true. You might only see a few people using Apple’s fancy phone on the street. Early adopters? Maybe more like only adopters. It turns out that the iPhone is seriously lacking in some functionality compared to the keitai that are already on the market in Japan. Here are five reasons why the iPhone may never catch on in Japan. iPad: consider yourself warned.
Does your cell phone have a big fuzzy thing hanging off it? How about some plastic edamame you can pop out of the pod to pleasing effect? The iPhone’s lack of a strap attachment comes at the top of the list for good reason.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, old or young, you simply cannot leave the house without a strap (or, “sutorappu,” in katakana English) attached to your otherwise naked phone. The strap speaks to one’s individual taste and social position, separating the Shibuya “gyaru” (who may go for the Hello Kitty plush) from the Akasaka “salaryman” (possibly opting for the executive reading glasses case). But, I do have to admit that this is a pretty cool solution.
No QR code reader
A QR code is a two-dimensional bar code that is widely used in Japan, but seldom seen in other countries. It can be used on products and pretty much anything else you want to be able to scan quickly. As virtually all cell phones in Japan are equipped with a QR code reader, companies and individuals often use these codes to link to their websites from print media like magazines, billboards, and business cards.
Imagine you’re at a coffee shop, perusing some local periodical, and you stumble upon a QR-coded coupon for a free cup of joe at that very same shop. Just point your trusty keitai at the code, scan it, and go to the website. Then, flash the site to the shop-keep, and you’ve got your free coffee. Oh, iPhone, are you taking away our free coffee now?
No TV tuner
Just pull out the antenna on your Japanese handset, choose a channel, and you’ll soon be watching a sumo match, a soba-eating competition, or some crazy game show. A ghetto approach compared to the iPhone’s ability to stream videos online? Maybe, but nothing beats the look of bunny ears.
No awesome camera
The iPhone’s camera weighs in at a puny three megapixels. Japanese phones often have cameras with up to ten. ‘Nuff said.
Forget about the elaborate Japanese etiquette for exchanging business cards. By far the easiest way to get a new acquaintance’s digits is via infrared receivers and transmitters built in to all keitai in Japan. Just hold your phone real close to your new friend’s, beam your info, and you’re done. First, though, comes the awkward decision: who gives and who receives?