Putting Galapagos behind Them? An Update on Japan’s Singular Mobile Problem

Over the last few years the news was that Japan’s mobile internet and mobile phones were in the throes of the Galapagos Syndrome—a plight whereby Japanese mobile was evolving in a singular fashion unlike anywhere else on the globe.  Japan’s ultra-sophisticated mobile designs were developed to essentially work only in Japan.  Japanese mobile products simply couldn’t work in other locations.  Though Japan is no stranger to self-isolating practices, in this global marketplace where mergers and international trade mean money, is the high tech island finally revamping its mobile to be more globally friendly?

Japan’s Love of Mobile

Unlike many countries where the PC reigned supreme for the past decade, mobile was the darling of Japanese culture.  While the rest of the world is just now accessing the internet in record numbers from their smartphones, Japan has been favoring their cool devices to surf the web for years and the country has embraced mobile milestone after milestone before other nations could say laptop.  Japan has been promoting wireless mobile broadband plans for phones that support digital television, video conferencing, and are even optimized as boarding passes if their uses choose.  If you live in Japan—these convenient and cutting edge technologies have revolutionized life and business.  Yet, sadly, these advanced devices simply don’t work in other nations that are struggling to catch up with Japan’s technically savvy infrastructures.

The Problem with Incompatibility

Japan’s cell phone makers have been more concerned with developing ever more advanced features than adapting to the needs or limits posed by the global marketplace.  Wireless carriers outside of Japan can’t support the myriad of features Japan’s mobile phones boast.  Because the Japanese mobile industry has catered to its home base and allowed it to progress in a direction entirely different from the rest of the world much like Darwin’s birds, they have also failed to capitalize on international business i.e. sell their phones en masse beyond their own borders.

Are Times Changing?

For one thing, the rest of the world is changing.  More people purchased smart phones or internet-accessing devices than PCs for the first time last year.  Forecasters believe that in a short while, worldwide access to the internet will be via more mobile devices than traditional desktops or PCs.  In short, the rest of the world is turning to their smartphones in increasing numbers to access the internet, text, and transact business.

As for Japan, it’s still developing far-out features like phones that even test to see if their user has had too much to drink.  Mobile-phone gaming is still all the rage in Japan and new hot cell phone designs rival Harajuku fashion culture for attention.  Still, a few companies are now installing some Japanese to English features in the hopes that the Galapagos Effect may be reduced in time.  Japanese firms are buying foreign e-readers and other features that show a marked willingness to play with the hardware of other nations.  Tapping into foreign markets to sell their ultra-nifty phones is slowly beginning to seem like a good idea—and they may even make money at it.

[author ]Sam Jones, the author, thinks that mobiles are incredible and the way they are evolving is impressive.[/author]

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