Why Japan’s Cellphones Haven’t Gone Global

Article: Tabuchi, H. (2009). “Why Japan’s Cellphones Haven’t Gone Global” The New York Times Company. Retrieved 20 July, 2009.


As the title suggests the article talks about how the Japanese-made cell phones have not made themselves into a global market. The article refers this to as Galapagos Syndrome, where the Japanese develop a product that evolves isolated from world markets. Despite the fact that Japan has been introducing new innovations almost every year since 1999, with new features such as email capabilities, camera phone, and digital TV, many of these innovations however turned out to be too advanced for most markets overseas. The second generation network standard introduced in the 90s was rejected everywhere else in the world and has contributed to the isolation from the global markets. In addition, many analyze that the issue is in the Japanese phone makers focusing more on hardware design rather than on software, and as a result, the development of handset models becomes time-consuming and expensive. The emphasis on hardware also makes the design to be more bulky and not something that is appealing to the overseas market. The introduction of the iPhone to the Japanese market has not yet proven to be successful as the Japanese users seem to be less used to handsets that connect to a computer. It is not that the Japanese cell phone makers have not tried to market their phones globally, but rather, there used to be and still is a larger market in Japan itself with 100 million users of the third-generation smartphones, which is twice the number used in the United States. But now as the market shrinks, the Japanese makers have been seriously considering overseas markets, otherwise it will be difficult for them to survive.

Conceptual Design: Japanese phone makers need to develop a phone that works for global users, which means that they would probably have to conduct a focus group or a research to understand what the overseas market wants in phones.  The makers need to focus more on software development rather than hardware.

Interaction Design: Cell phones should connect and easily synchronize with a computer. Availability to better software phone applications.

Interface Design: The design should not resemble the clunky and bulky clamshell design that of the Japanese cell phones. The makers should consider more of an iPhone like handset.

  1 comment for “Why Japan’s Cellphones Haven’t Gone Global

  1. April 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Conceptual Design: Japanese phone makers chose extreme specialization of hardware to meet the needs of its population of users. That’s a conceptual design choice. It might not be the right one for other population of users.
    Interaction Design: Why? Is this true for all cultures? Many African countries don’t have a wide-spread of computer adaption (or the money for it), but they do have a wide-spread adaption of cell phones…
    Interface Design: Why? Why does bulkier not work? I think it’s good to be specific…

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