Japanese Phones

... are pretty slick. Japanese society is a rather mobile one. Adults usually work all day, and Kids are usually at school all day. Even when they aren't at their places of business or work, they usually aren't home. The Japanese usually conglomerate somewhere in the town, rather than each other's homes. Therefore, they need something to keep them connected with all their friends and business associates. This is why cell phones are so grand in Japan. If you don't have one, then you must be tied to a phone somewhere or a computer somewhere to keep in contact with your friends to figure out what's up. You'd be stuck in your tiny apartment or house waiting for something to happen, rather than walking around the town getting something done. This is also why the Japanese people leap until mobile technology faster than in the US.

The Japanese use their cell phone as their primary communications device. More Japanese connect to the Internet through their phone, than on a computer, and more Japanese send emails back and forth from their phone, rather than calling each other. Whether on a train, on a bus, or just walking, you can easily see most pedestrians typing away with one hand on their cellphone.

Since cellphones are so widely used, the market for making phones is probably the largest technological market in Japan. If you walk into any electronic department store, you'll be bombarded with their cellphone area almost right away. There are 3 main cellphone companies in Japan: DoCoMo, Soft Bank, and Au. Their stand-alone stores are almost just as common as convenience stores.

The phone company i went with was Soft Bank, and purely because of their options. I was looking for a prepaid phone, so that limited my choices to Au and Soft Bank right away. Now these companies don't have prepaid only models. They have prepaid plans that can go on specific models. These plans usually nerf all but a few options for the phone. The prepaid plan for the Au phones nerf almost all the options, and only allow the user to email other Au users. The prepaid plan for Soft bank phones pretty much did the same, except allowed emailing to any email address. Well that narrowed down the choices pretty fast. So i got a slick looking Soft Bank phone.

Anywho... each store has a vast variety of different cellphones you can choose from. Some vary in options, but every single cellphone is complete with the internet, emailing, and an infrared sensor. Most phones have cameras, and most phones have marginally large hard-drives for playing mp3s. Another such model actually has an antenna for catching TV receptions.

Whenever you come across some poster advertisement in Japan, you'll probably notice a square barcode like design printed with it. Well, that's just one of the many uses of the infrared sensor. You can set the sensor to capture, and point your phone at this barcode. The barcode acts as a URL when it's received by your phone, and will automatically bring you to a website from the advertisement.

McDonalds makes full use of this technology by stamping one on each of it's product's wrappers. You can scan the wrapper's barcode, and it'll bring you to a webpage detailing the nutritional information of what you're eating. pretty handy.

The other main use of the infrared sensor is to send contact information back and forth between other cellphones. This skips the whole process of asking what someone's phone number is, and then tediously typing it into your phone. The sender can just send the info across infrared and the receiver can capture this information effortlessly.

In Japan, my cellphone and a pocket map were my two main pieces of equipment (besides id and money) in order to get around and do things without being tied down to anywhere.


In contrast, American phones are so damned primitive. It's like beating two rocks together to make fire. Of course, we don't need anything so helpful in our society because we're usually home. You could just call their house. With cellphones, in America, now you can call the person directly, but you wouldn't want to email said person, because they are more than likely driving around since everything is so far apart. Internet? That's what computers are for.

As bitched about before, American cellphones annoy me.  Though, despite being annoyed by my own phone on occasion, the auspicious Cingular 8525, it actually acts as a very nice Japanese phone, even though it's not cool looking and somewhat heavy. It can do internet and email just fine, but the one thing i played with last night has sold me on it. (even though, i already bought and paid for it)

The 8525 actually has one of these infrared sensors on it, so i wondered if my American phone could talk with my Japanese phone. An interesting experiment, indeed. I turned on my Japanese phone and sent a contact over through infrared... huzzah. My American phone captured the information and actually noticed it was a Contact.. It didn't decipher the 'title' of the contact correctly, but all the other information was intact.  I'm actually rather impressed.. I moved most of my Japanese contacts over to my phone in a matter of 20 minutes.  It took about a minute per contact.  Though, it doesn't allow me to enter detailed contact information about myself into the phone without listing myself as a Contact :/ oh well..

Now my next fun experiment shall be if the 8525 can read Japanese cellphone barcodes and make sense of them...

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