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When the iPhone was announced, about the only article I saw that wasn’t glowing praise, but wasn’t curmudgeonly negativity was a piece on the Japanese reaction to the iPhone, which could be summed up as “ummmm, that’s all? so what?” Other than the touch-screen interface, the iPhone is light years behind the features on most high-end Japanese phones. In fact, even the features on the highest-end phone I’ve ever touched (the Nokia N95) just barely begins to approach high-end Japanese standards.
I present for you here, to marvel at, KDDI’s new flagship phone – the one that every gaijin I know in Japan began lusting over yesterday after it was announced – the W53CA (the CA stands for Casio)… This twist and flip clamshell has all the normal KDDI AU Win features (AU Win is KDDI’s equivalent to Power Vision or VCAST – a group of services included on every EV-DO phone.) that includes GPS enabled walking and driving directions, a music store with song and video downloads, mobile manga (comics), long mail (kind of like email but for mobile phones), ringtones, etc. On top of all that the 53CA has an 800 x 480 screen, a 5 Megapixel camera with autofocus which gets Casio’s Exilim branding, and FeLiCa mobile wallet (NFC like PayPass) which can be used not only as a payment method in nearly every store in Japan, but also as a train / subway ticket, a door key, and even an airline boarding pass. The only modern feature it doesn’t have is a TV tuner. (There are both Bravia and Aquos TV phones in Japan.)
I dream about the day when we will see phones like this here in the States. I’m not one of those people who say it will never happen. Over the past two years the US has been doing a better job of keeping up with the phoneses (no it’s not a typo, it’s a pun, see?). And I believe that the demand for phones packing high-end convergence will increase as younger generations continue to lean further towards mobiles rather than PCs. In much of Asia and even Europe, many people forgo PC ownership altogether and use their phone for everything. We’re only starting to see mobile-centric behavior developing here, but as it does, I think the likelihood that we will get more advanced phones at services that are on-par with what we see in Europe and even Japan or Korea will increase.