Japanese cell phone users are simply ahead of their time, according to a report at Wired, which counts the Apple smartphone’s relatively pedestrian toolset and a strong dose of cultural bias against non-Japanese brands to explain why Apple’s provider partner Softbank is now giving away 8GB iPhones to customers who sign a two year contract in the country where gadgets rule.
For example, while many Japanese are heavily into working and playing with video and photography on their cell phones, the iPhone has virtually no video support and a camera that could be described as eccentric, at best. In addition, many Japanese enjoy TV tuners built into their cell phones, while YouTube and the Ustream app can hardly be said to offer content with mass appeal.
Nokia and Motorola have also famously failed in Japan, so Apple is not without company, but in a country with extremely competitive cellular rate plans, Softbank’s monthly rates are seen as too high in comparison to others’ offerings.
It’s odd to think that in the US and in many parts of the rest of the world, where Apple sold over 10 million iPhones in 2008, the device is seen as a status symbol, even an indicator of too-much coolness, while in Japan, “carrying around an iPhone would make you look pretty lame.”