Sunday, February 22, 2004

Internet Cell Phone Access UPDATE

Finally getting around to the update mentioned in my previous post...

There are a couple interest dynamics dealing with Japan that I neglected to mention that help explain why cell phones are so popular that aren't touched on in the article. I mentioned the economics and the sociological explanations in the previous post. There are two other aspects that are probably important, one of which is touched on in the article and the other of which is not.

First (or third), is the widespread use of public transportation to commute and small-"t" travel in Japan, which makes it feasible to make extensive use of advanced features in cell phones in a way that is not possible in a car commuter culture like the U.S., examples in Dr. Gridlock notwithstanding. This is buttressed by the long commuting times in places like the Tokyo region, resident to nearly one-third of Japan's 125 or so million people (Yokohama may be a city of 3 million people, but its daytime population is less than 90% of its nighttime one, which is sufficient to qualify it as a bedroom community).

Finally, entertainment and visiting with friends in Japan occurs almost exclusively at public places like bars and restaurants; home parties are generally exceedingly rare, for the simple reasons that there's not enough space and home is too far away. People are consequently away from home and on the move much more frequently than there are in the U.S., which just makes the cell phone (and its myriad potential features) that much more attractive.

There are certainly implications I haven't discussed, like differences in cell phone technology and broader implications for the use of cell phones for internet access rather than computers and what that means for future development, but those generally aren't areas in whcih I claim to have expertise, so I'll just note them for anyone who's reading.

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