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“The Evolution of Japanese Mobiles”



Just about 85% of the Japanese population carries a mobile phone of one kind or another today. Until only a decade ago, it was an expensive gadget to carry around, also rather large in size and heavy in weight. Very few people could be seen carrying one.

Mobiles that have evolved at an unbelievable speed and hence remarkably increased its sales and popularity seem to have qualities and functions uniquely Japanese. The following is an observation on the newest models in the market.

One of the conspicuous points about the Japanese mobiles, if not the most, is the design. There are not many cultures in the world that throw in so much energy in the designs and fashionability of normal, daily mobiles that the majority of the country’s population owns. Or to put it the other way around, mobiles do not sell in Japan without careful and cool designing.

The designs vary to a very wide range. It is interesting, even surprising, that in this country where fashion trends are given great emphasis, there has never really been a mainstream trend for mobile designs. If there is such thing as a trend in design, clamshell phones would be it, but that is more of something understood as natural rather than a trend. For various functions it is acknowledged that it is better to have larger displays, and for that it is more efficient to have clamshell designs.

Ever since camera functions had been added to mobile (roughly about five years ago), the displays have become bigger and the resolutions exponentially higher. The credit is to be given to SHARP, the leader of liquid crystal (LC) in the past and today.
Several years back, SHARP tied up with the mobile service carrier J-PHONE (which shifted to Vodafone later and Softbank Mobile today) and promoted a new function/ service called “Sha-Mail” (the kanji character for “sha” means to “take” or “copy” and is a component of the word “shashin” which means photograph). Text e-mail had become possible on mobile phones some years before this “Sha-Mail” started, and from the easiness of attaching pictures that has been taken on that phone on e-mails and sending it to another, “Sha-Mail” became an explosive hit.

Thus, having a mobile meant carrying a camera everywhere and being able to communicate with friends through text and image.
Surely, it was a very attractive function especially for those younger generations who are always keen on the latest fashion and state-of-the-art gadgets.

It is never too much to say that the evolution of mobiles is the history of LC and minicam evolution.

Although the fever has sunk in just recently, the catch phrase for mobile phones for one period was “high resolution, large display, quality LC”.
Want to take great pictures, want to see them on wide displays, want to see them as clearly and vividly as possible... a simple desire, certainly, but one may wonder if that is really a quality required for and as a “mobile phone”. (Note from writer: of course, high quality camera is always welcome for the pictures can be sent to friends and posted on blogs very easily.)

Anyhow, in this manner the camera and display function/ quality on Japanese mobiles have evolved. How high-spec? Even the most common phones have 2-3mega (or higher) pixels, some with 2X optical zoom and auto-jiggle correction.

Consequently, the mainstream shifted from straight-type models and flipper-type models to clamshell-type models, for the older ones had limited space for large displays whereas clamshell designs allow large displays yet compact carrying.

In addition, slide-type and revolver-type models have joined the market recently together with double axis clamshell-types (flip it open and turn it sideways). These too, are designed to enable mobile cameras to have digi-cam level qualities.

On the other hand, however, designs that intentionally go against the mainstream such as small and thin terminals, and ones with humorously designed buttons prove to be quite popular as well.

In the next entry we will go further into the designs and move on to the functions.


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