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Exec: Japanese iPhone success a local failure

updated 09:35 am EDT, Fri August 15, 2008

Japanese iPhone success

The new-found popularity of the iPhone in Japan is as much a failure of local industry as it is an advancement by Apple, a former NTT DoCoMo executive claims. Tsuyoshi Natsuno, who lead the carrier's i-mode division, describes the Japanese cellular industry as having fallen into a "collegial system," where phones are designed explicitly according to specifications outlined by carriers. The phones in fact have no existence outside of their carriers, a situation which Natsuno believes to offer no incentive for driving technology forward.

Although Japanese phones do have technological edges, like better cameras, wireless payments and 1Seg mobile TV, the situation is said to be so bad that workers who might actually advance Japanese phones are not assigned any positions of responsibility. The iPhone should in fact shake up Japanese cellphones, Natsuno argues, simply by showing people that there is no reason for phone makers to remain static.

The executive notes that the iPhone also has the benefit of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a leader with "solid faith" in his product. Products with a positive vision behind them tend to do better, says Natsuno, because it encourages workers to cooperate and realize that vision.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Not just in Japan

    And what did you think was going on in the US? Carriers were the ones calling for this and that feature in a new package, so little was being done to advance mobile interfaces.

    It takes a proven innovator like Apple that can take an idea, put months and years of R&D behind it, and then market the h*** of it. Since Apple does not use the "give them everything and see what sticks" business model, refining and executing an idea like they did with the iPhone is nothing out of the ordinary compared to the companies past efforts.

    Now I'd like to see if Apple can continue to innovate in the handset industry, or stagnates like the previous big players were. In the meantime, what do you think the chances of Moto, etc. coming up with a new idea to outshine the iPhone?

  1. eddd

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    close but not quite right

    These aren't all Mr Natsuno's comments... many of them, including the comments about designing for carriers, are from the interviewer, Mr Toshiyuki Oomori.

    In any event, the essence of Apple design is, and always has been, rethinking everything and designing for the user experience (okay, forget their mice for a moment). Often the boldest design move is leaving something out, which requires the highest level of design sensibility. Adding features is easy... carefully choosing them and customizing them for the end user is much harder. I would say that Japanese design is too focused on the device, not the carrier. They need to design for humans, not devices.

    Apple has its problems as well. Sometimes their strong hand and "think different" mantra hinders the user experience (okay, now remember their mice, as well as things like an optical drive eject button, hardware monitor controls, etc). They often seem offended by convention and try too hard to be different, thereby losing their focus on the user.

    btw, one of my favorite parts of the Apple experience is opening the box to find "Designed in California" prominently displayed. Makes me proud.

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Everyone fails Apple wins

    Failure of the cellphone industry?

    THe cellphone industry is made of failure. People hate the cellphone carriers with their stupid lockins and confusing plans and restricted applications and crappy interfaces and deliberately crippled phones.

    The irony is that the iPhone is not succeeding because it's great, but merely because it's less bad. The interface is better, but it's still limited (no cut and paste? HELLO APPLE?). It started out even more closed than most phones, and is still less open than true smartphones like the Treo. It's locked to a single carrier. You risk bricking it if you unlock it.

    If a phone that's merely "less bad" can do this well, imagine what a really GOOD one would do!

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