Why Don't We Have Cool Japanese Cell Phones?

Makers stifled by hardware too advanced to leave country
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 20, 2009 11:31 AM CDT
Softbank Corp.'s new handsets, Solar Hybrid 936SH, are shown during a press conference to unveil the new lineup by Japan's third biggest mobile carrier in Tokyo Tuesday, May 19, 2009. A 10-minute solar...   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Able to surf the internet, stand in for credit cards, and check body fat, Japan’s smartphones make ours look primitive—yet we’re sticking with what we have. That’s because Japan’s phone makers have been “a little too clever,” writes Hiroko Tabuchi in the New York Times. Thanks to standards no other country can handle, Japan's manufacturers have created an insular market.

Until recently, Japan’s voracious cellphone market kept its firms growing without venturing much beyond its shores. But in the recession, makers are grappling with a shrinking market, forcing some to weigh a fight for foreign market share. “Japanese cellphone makers need to either look overseas, or exit the business,” says a consultant. That means shifting focus from hardware to software and hiring more foreigners. Sounds daunting, but “it’s not too late,” says an analyst.