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In what seems to be a common theme lately, there are a number of blogs/analysts spouting off about some technology or feature, and then someone a touch more knowledgeable comes along and adds to the discussion – usually by correcting them. I noticed this some time ago with Tomi Ahonen/FCC/AT&T, and again this morning with Wireless Watch Japan/Financial Times. Seems like its my turn to talk about things alien and not so alien to mobile use.

Keeping with the meme, the subject is mobile, and specifically the features which are available on mobile devices (whether as a service or built-into the device) in Japan versus the rest of the world (aka, here in the US).

The piece that raised my eye came from the site TechNewsDaily, and the article was specifically about 10 features of mobile device use (or mobile phone features) which are not available outside of Japan. As much of a fan as I am of mobile, and considering what I do personally with my device(s), its very hard to not be impressed at what happens in Japan (Finland, South Korea, Kenya, and several other places). However, its not for lack of device or even service ability that some things aren’t done, its sheer media ignorance.

10. A Personal Butler
There are very few concerige services for most mobile owners, however, folks who have the reputation to use a Nokia Vertu seem to not have that problem. I’d imagine also that users of services such as the HTC myTouch 3G Slide’s Genius Button or even Google’s Voice Search in its Mobile App might have something to say about a mobile that moves for them at their beck and call.

9. Investigative Visits
Sure, there’s the dead-spot locator application for iPhone users on AT&T, but this is pretty exclusive to Japan/DoMoCo.

8. Barcode Reader
You have to be kidding me right? At the time this piece was written (Feb 2010), I had already stopped using business cards for a QR code on my device for over a year, had MMM designed so that each post would also print a QR code of the article URL, and there were several companies (Google, Kaywa, Nokia, etc.) who were already using mobile barcodes all over the world and in several types of applications. The lack of them catching on, or having consistent influences into consumer research and purchasing behaviors lies not on the lack of the technology or devices, but on the side of content creators and brand agents.

7. Free TV on the Phone
No, we don’t get free TV (still). Even with sites like Amazon (who will support sideloading to your mobile or the use of a mobile app for a few platforms), or Hulu, folks still have to engineer solutions such as Slingbox to get movies and TV on their mobiles. It’s unfortunate that the networks cannot support this (Sprint does a decent job here though) in a mobile open, not necessarily free, manner – bandwidth and backhaul would be the claimed reasons, but I think content providers have a ton of apprehensions here too.

6. Phones as Payment Systems and 5. Send Money to Other Subscribers
PayPal and Nokia Money are working things out on one end here, efforts with NFC are another, and banks are coming around towards mobile banking. Still, it’s not common, and it will still be a while before cards and cash go away, replaced by a mobile as wallet and service (the possibilities when it does happen would be pretty neat IMO).

4. Internal Wi-Fi Hotspot
I was using JoikuSpot on my Nokia N95 in 2009 (and probably 2008). Folks were jailbreaking iPhones in 2008 and 2009 for this functionality, and Window Mobile folks looked at everyone with a square eye as similar could be done both with ad-hoc Wi-Fi and Bluetooth via IIS. This isn’t that new, or exclusive.

In addition: my Nokia N95 supported UPnP, which allowed it to not only view content over a Wi-Fi network from other devices, but play and control those devices from the mobile while on that network. That device came out in 2007.

3. Home Security Service
This is neat; and I’m pretty certain that its not far down the line for many mobile devices given that many of the smaller companies have already begun offering web-based home monitoring as a part of their service offering. I’ll give it to the Japanese here though, this would be a helpful feature.

2. Environmental Awareness
I know that Nokia has been pushing this a bit with Eco Profiles, but am unaware of anyone doing this on a wide scale (small projects are there and here). The article doesn’t pen sources for these innovations either, so I’ll pass on the proof until it can be verified better.

1. Reads Vital Signs
Again, this is a neat feature, but there’s not much given in terms of how widely this is deployed or how many services/health providers, or even users, are taking advantage of this in their mobiles. There is some innovative thinking and acting happening in this space, just not in the most “advanced” of places, and usually with an eye towards accessible prevention.

Let’s see. We have 2 items which could be considered Japanese exclusive, 2 which could not be validated due to lack of sources and metrics, and the rest which are not just available, but either in practice, or require a similar attention to not just the device or technology, but the infrastructure to support it.

One of the reasons Japan (and a few other places) are so far ahead is because they made a devision very early on with mobile to make cooperation between mobile innovation and mobile actualization happen with as little friction as possible. In Japan, we see [edited] the results of investments in mobile networks by governmental and private businesses who have an interest in making sure they get a very good return on their investment (not competition between them for the affluent few). Also, services are designed so that they promote their use, not limit it (we don’t see as much in the way of limited plans or data tariffs).

And so, while it is pretty clear that there is mobile innovation happening in Japan that’s not happening here, we should probably not cloud the truth of their innovations by passing over what’s already in play around us. If anything, we are blind to the innovation happening because we aren’t using it and trumpeting it as bloggers/analysts should while speaking on the state of things.

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6 thoughts on “Passing the Truth About Mobile Features

  1. Hello Antoine:

    Noted your in-bound link for our recent post.. thanks!

    Good stuff to take the point by point approach a bit deeper.. and indeed innovation of the Japan original model is increasingly obvious in global markets. Not sure what you meant by ‘state-supported’ comment.. NTT (like AT&T) is no longer owned by the fed. but as for tight integration and co-op with wide range of industry partners.. spot-on!

    I suppose the major difference on segments like mobile payments and digital tv, is how well they are designed and how long they have been deployed – therefore mass scale adoption. From what I’ve seen, and we tend to travel alot these days, most markets are still years behind in that space.

    At any rate.. keep-up the good work.. 😎

    Cheers,

    Lars

  2. Greetings Lars and thanks for visiting. This was definitely a different post for me, but it’s probably because of the state of what I read that I was finally compelled to respond in this manner.

    It would be neat to see some of ghat integration ghat Zjapan and a few other countries are popular for. But, until ghat moment, it makes sense to not just write about it, but to live it as well.

  3. I’d love to make the trip; I’ve been told that its a very colorful and engaging place beyond the tech. Plus, am a fan of the history of the samurai, so it would be a double pleasure to see the history and ask of the culture(s) that grew from its influences.

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