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Five Missing Functions For The Apple iPhone in Japan

With Apple’s iPhone due to launch soon in Japan, and much hot air on the blogs and in the press on why the iPhone will or will not be a hit in Japan, it is timely to take a look from a Japanese perspective at what features are missing from the iPhone.

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1. Emoji. Emoji is the Japanese name for the smilies that are built into just about every cell phone. These characters cover everything from smiley faces to map symbols via astrological signs and food and drink. Thanks to software at the gateways of every mobile provider, these are seemlessly translated in inter-provider email, and with almost four in five people using them, Apple’s iPhone in Japan must support them.

2. One Seg. One Seg is free to view digital terrestrial television, and receivers are becoming standard on the majority of cell phones sold in Japan these days, and on many train journeys one can find people staring intently at their cell phones, catching up on the latest television Slack Emojis. Although on Apple’s iPhone Japanese can download content from YouTube, copyright issues and the lack of public hotspots will seriously cripple the usability of this feature. One Seg support will be expensive to add and may not even fit within the current package once an aerial is added, but it is a basic feature that many look for when shopping for mobile phones in Japan.

3. FeliCa electronic cash. Electronic cash payment points are becoming ubiquitous around railway stations in Japan as more and more people start carrying them instead of loading themselves down with loose change. Most new mobiles also come with these chips embedded ready to provide enhanced payment services; without this chip from Sony Apple’s iPhone will suffer in Japan. Although data suggests that there are relatively few people using their cell phones instead of standard credit card-based packages, every year the percentage of users is increasing.

4. QR Code scanner. This is a no-brainer, and surely a small application that Apple must add to the iPhone in Japan. With widespread QR Code usage in Japan, these small 2D barcodes that appear almost everywhere must be supported in order not to cripple the iPhone in Japan, as along with emoji support it is a critical feature for Japanese cell phones.

5. Numeric keypad input. People even write novels on Japanese cell phones these days, and many people are faster thumbing their phone numeric keypad compared to using a proper keyboard. The current alphanumeric input will be a hindrance to the acceptance of Apple’s iPhone in Japan, so there needs to be an alternative input mode available that allows people to revert to their familiar entry method.

Given these factors above, the software and hardware for Apple’s iPhone in Japan needs quite a bit of work to be done to it before it can make any sort of impact when it goes on sale.

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