I moved to Tokyo in June 2008. I immediately thought I was living in the future. The cultural shock and misunderstandings about what it really meant notwithstanding, the technology that was surrounding me looked so different, a Galapagos —the term that became en vogue a few months later.
The 2008 shift
A massive shift actually started one month into my new life there. Unbeknownst to me, the release of the iPhone 3G—the first Apple handset to be released in Japan and for which I queued and queued and queued—was an inception. It’s just incredible the amount of change that the smartphone revolution—for the lack of a better wording—has brought to the country. The carriers have been shaken and even though DoCoMo remains king, SoftBank, which took the risk to carry the iPhone, gained tons of new subscribers1. The app stores that exist were not able survive the new freedom found by both customers and, almost most importantly, app developers. The carriers lost some control of their neatly organized ecosystem. DoCoMo showed an ability to somewhat maintain the old world order, but at the price of being relatively late into going head first into the smartphone world—the Android philosophy it has now was only truly cemented in 2010-2011. And rumors are at a fever pitch as to the possibility it will finally carry the iPhone.
The most striking change is surely the fate of the Japanese handset manufacturers. Remember Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba and all the others? Some linger. Some died. Basically only Sony soldiers on. Get on a Tokyo train, you’ll basically only witness iPhones and Galaxys.
The other 2008
2008 was also the year when Nokia pulled out of Japan, having failed at capturing any significant market share (it pulled out its Vertu premium brand in 2011). Another symbol as five years later, the name won’t be seen on smartphones anymore anywhere. It shows how much not only Japan but the world of mobile has changed. How fast it’s still changing.
It’s not a full circle for me.
This blog was borne out of the frustrations I had endured trying to get an iPhone contract. As a foreigner not speaking the language well-enough, not to mention totally unable to read any of it, I thought I could help by providing some information. The world has changed there too, getting a smartphone is much more foreigner-friendly —I can swap a nano-SIM into my iPhone every time I land at Narita and get unlimited data, all that in English.
This is thus not the rebirth of a blog I had forgotten about. My friends, Joseph, Steve, Andrew, Pietro, who all wrote here, ventured to new horizons—new countries even—as I did. I’m still passionate about mobility and about Japan, it’s still a focus of my job, I just can’t be writing detailed articles on how to get a contract in Japan anymore. Thus, the scope of this blog is changing. Not only it is becoming more personal—I will be the only author—but it will be more about curating news, with a few words of analysis. Sometimes (and sometimes only), I’ll take time to write bigger stories.
The archives have been maintained, but the formatting is a work in progress, so just drop me a line if a post that interest you is borked and I’ll prioritize it.
There is also no more commenting either, I don’t have time to moderate, but you’re welcome to react on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
This is pretty much it. Welcome to (the new) Mobile in Japan.
au/KDDI beat its relative slump when it went iPhone in 2011 too. ↩