The Apple iPhone: Successes and Challenges for the Mobile Industry

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This is the title of a recent report produced by Rubicon Consulting, which I picked up via Michael Mace’s blog. I love statistics and stories on the iPhone, and although this is a study of the USA market, I will project from the US findings to look at if similar trends can be observed in Japan, and will Apple’s device be a success or not over here based on the reported results. You may have heard the recent news that the production of a 3G iPhone has started, so the Japan release is surely getting near. Let us look at the key statistics in the full report and see what they mean. All statements about the Japanese market are based on surveys previously translated on this blog.

Demographics

460 randomly-selected iPhone users from all over the US completed an internet-based questionnaire. The sex breakdown is not listed, but by age 0% were under 18, 5% were between 18 to 21, 15% between 22 to 25, 30% between 26 to 30, 26% between 31 to 40, 13% between 41 to 50, 6% between 51 to 60, 4% between 61 and 70, and 1% over 70 years old.

User satisfaction

Overall over 40% were strongly satisfied with most of the features, and almost 80% satisfied to some degree. However, under 30% were strongly satisfied with data speed; in Japan with ubiquitous 3G, the need for speed will surely be even stronger.
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Japan’s most decisive battle in World War 2

Japanese soldiers approaching NomonhanSince I’m being slightly off-topic this evening, here’s an interesting article that was passed to me from Andy at Siberian Light about a little bit of history that perhaps not many Westerners are familiar with (it was news to me), but which holds a pivotal role in shaping both the war in the Pacific and the Eastern Front.

The battle is of Khalkhin-Gol, or the Nomonhan Incident as it is known in Japan, which took place in 1939, just a few weeks before Hitler invaded Poland, and was sparked off by an incident along a disputed portion of the border of the Japanese and Soviet puppet states, Manchuria and Mongolia, near the town of Nomonhan, close to the Khalkhin-Gol river, thus the two names for the battle.

After much skirmishing and even aerial attacks by the Japanese, Tokyo eventually issued an order to expel the invaders and reclaim the ground lost to the Mongol and Soviet forces. On July 1st 1939, Japan attacked and drove back the opposing forces, but a counter-attack by the Soviets with a force of 450 tanks soon saw off the thrust, and on July 5th the Japanese withdrew. Another assault by the Japanese was also repelled, but before the Japanese could regroup for a third try, the Soviets counter-attacked on the 20th of August with 50,000 men, 498 tanks, and 250 planes. By the 31st the Japanese were encircled, and bar a few units who managed to break out, they refused to surrender and chose instead to fight to the death, and the Soviets duly obliged, with the battle finishing on the 1nd of September 1939.

As we all know, just a day later Hitler invaded Poland.

Official statistics report just over 17,000 Japanese total casualties, compared with around 9,000 Soviets, but some historians claim that Japan lost more than 45,000 men, versus Soviet losses of 17,000 men.

How Khalkhin-Gol changed Japanese military thinking

Realising that the Soviets were tactically superior, one reason being that the Japanese forces valued samurai-like ethics (for want of a better word) on the battlefield, Japan decided to curb its desire for expansion into Soviet territory, so even when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the Japanese chose not to open a second front, enabling the Soviets to concentrate on the threat from the West.

Thus, to satisfy its expansionist desires, the far-flung (from the European perspective) colonial outposts in South-East Asia were richer pickings. Thus, thanks to that defeat in Mongolia, perhaps Pearl Harbour became to be seen as a softer target, and the rest is, as they say, history.

If you enjoyed this short history lesson, please don’t forget to read the full story at Siberian Light.

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Immigration will cause loss of unique identity: poll

According to a poll recently conducted on behalf of the national broadcaster, when asked if without immigration would the nation’s economy suffer, almost half (49%) of the people of this island nation bravely trying to hold out against the inevitable forces of globalisation thought that it would not suffer without an influx of foreigners, versus 46% who thought it would suffer.

When asked if all these incomers would affect the unique identity of the nation, 62% agreed whereas only 35% disagreed; almost twice as many think assimilation is not possible, perhaps indicating some longing for past glories where it was their unique culture that was imposed on other countries.

In other news, 65% of Japanese wants to see more immigration, even at the unskilled level, to address labour shortages. The backward, xenophobic, racist nation described in the first two paragraphs is actually the UK.

Note that of course the Japanese and UK situations are in no way comparable, and there are other surveys that indicate, for instance, that 55% of the Japanese public blame a decline in public order in foreign crime, versus 36% in the UK, but it does show that nihonjinron is not a uniquely Japanese disease, and that Japanese public opinion is perhaps not such an outlier when compared to other nations. Having said that, Japan is an outlier when it comes to media and state reaction to racism and allegations of such, although I do not paint as black a picture as others.

Sources: UK survey from the BBC (pdf); Japan survey from the Mainichi via Japan Probe.

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:-) turns 25, but how old are Japanese emoticons (?_?)

You may have heard the news that 25 years ago on the 19th of September 1982, there was the first recorded use of western smileys on usenet. However, that got me wondering as to how old horizontal Japanese emoticons were. With a little investigation, I came across this Japanese page on the evolution of smiley marks in Japan. I’ll now present a summary translation of this history of the Japanese emoticon.

First up is a nuclear scientist claiming to have invented (~_~) and others round about the same time as ASCII Net (a Japanese online service) started in May 1985, although he says he wasn’t the first, he was just following the patterns of others.

Next up was someone claiming that when he attended Hokkaido University the first Japanese emoticon he saw was from Master Koala with (^O^) in fj.jokes, inspiring him to invent the following:

(^.^) – laughing
(;.;) – crying
(-.-) – sleeping, shocked
(_ _) – apologising, lowering one’s head
; – sweat mark, eg (^.^;)
* – red-faced, eg *^.^*

These were coined between May and July of 1988 and used on JUNET, the Japanese University Network.

Now, we get to a usenet post from January 13 1998, indirectly archived by Google Groups (but with broken encoding). In the message we can see the following marks:

(^O^) – Master Koala smiling
(-O-) – Master Koala sleeping
(*O*) – Master Koala shocked
(@O@) – Master Koala looking sideways
(=O=) – Master Koala squinting through narrowed eyes
(>O<) - Master Koala surprised (dOb) - Master Koala neutralNow we get a very interesting post, suggesting that the classic (^_^) was invented in Japan, but perhaps not by a Japanese. A Kim Tong Ho claims that in the first half of 1986 he signed posts to ASCII Net with the above-mentioned emoticon, with one example from 20th of June 1986. However, he doesn’t have confidence to claim to be the very first person to come up with a Japanese emoticon that doesn’t require head-tilting to read. Around the same time a person with the handle “binbou” (the nuclear scientist mentioned above) used (~_~), but as to who was first, it is rather difficult to say.

So, there we have it; the Japanese emoticon is at least 21 years and a few months old, perhaps even 22 and a bit years old.

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Debito on the recent Cabinet Office human rights survey

Just a short note to say that Debito has published a detailed look at the recent survey on human rights, including bits from my translation and other more traditional news sources.

He gives an interesting summary, and adds a few of his own opinions, so head over there and check them out.

Thanks for the link back Debito – I hoped I could tempt/taunt you into replying and perhaps spark some debate on the topic.

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USA Today tries to understand the iPhone and Japan

I saw this story on Japanese eager to get hands on iPhones, and whilst I am somewhat irked that USA Today did not choose to interview me on the subject, I did get a hearty laugh at this comment:

Culture. “The iPhone’s broad and easily accessible screen could actually be a liability in Japan,” says Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. Japanese are “accustomed to doing more in smaller spaces — and keeping things to themselves. The (pornographic comics) you download on the subway may be all too visible to your neighboring commuter” if you’re using an iPhone.

As anyone who regularly commutes on Japanese trains will tell you, everyone from youths to suited businessmen freely read manga of varying degrees of sauciness, and I’ve never seen anyone make any effort to hide the fact that they are studying the adult entertainment sections of the sports newspapers complete with not just topless women, but even the occassional pornographic image, although edited to hide any naughty bits.

Secondly, there is quite a large market in privacy screens, polarising filters for mobiles to stop people glancing sideways at your mobile, although with the iPhone being able to be viewed in both landscape and portrait orientation, there might be a slight technical issue here.

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Apple’s iPhone: Japan will love it, Japan will buy it

Although I started out as somewhat of a skeptic about the iPhone, mainly in reaction to the blanket news coverage it has been receiving, reflecting on the situation I now consider that the iPhone has what it takes to be big in Japan; indeed to become the very first foreign mobile phone (Sony-Ericsson doesn’t countas foreign!) to be a success in Japan’s rather insular market. There are, however, a small number of additions and modifications that I propose Apple must make to the hardware, software, and design before they can consider selling it in Japan.

iPhone: Japan’s carriers

Looking at the market image of the three big mobile phone carriers, namely NTT DoCoMo, au by KDDI, and SoftBank, the most natural fit would be au, as according to many surveys they have the strongest image for being on the leading edge and for supporting music playback on their phones. However, if a bidding war starts, SoftBank may be prepared to lay the most cash on the table as they are most desparate for customers, and with Cameron Diaz and Bradd Pitt pushing an American image of talking on the phone for SoftBank, SoftBank’s president Masayoshi Son may see the iPhone as a natural extension of his brand. Therefore, I predict there will be a SoftBank iPhone on the shelves early next year.
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Japanese attitudes to whaling

I noticed via Japan Probe, via Scoop NZ, that there was a press release issued by the Institute Of Cetacean Research, which, if Wikipedia’s article is to be trusted, is basically not much more than a front for the Japanese government for justifying whaling. In the press release there is much statistical jiggery-pokery that I shall try to get to the bottom of.
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Misleading acupressure statistics

Watching Aru Aru Daijiten (“Encyclopedia of Living” is the official translation) on television last night, they were talking about diagnosing problems with internal organs via acupressure, that is acupuncture pressure points, but just pressing them instead of sticking needles in. Whether on not you accept the medical validity or not (I personally do not), the program did, and presented some rather dubious statistics to back up their thesis, and to top it all off, accompanied it with some extremely poor, almost dangerous, advice.

One of the figures that stuck in my mind was that from their 40 guinea pigs, ordinary members of the public aged from 30 to 50 or so, 18 had pain when pressing either or both of the pressure points associated with kidney problems. These 18 were then given blood tests and six were found to actually have unusually high figures for protein in the urine or other kidney problems. Whilst everyone in the studio was amazed, to me that was just one in three who was correctly diagnosed, and there was not even the simple comparative figure of checking the other 22 to see if more or less than seven had similar kidney problems.

Next, when they did liver problems, they claimed (with no evidence to back up this statement) that with a simple one-minute massage of three pressure points one could metabolise alcohol faster and avoid hangovers!

With the people from the sample above where they had detected kidney or liver problems, after just one week of thrice-daily massage of the pressure points, they showed that on average these people had lowered their cholesterol or other indicators by about 5% to 10%, but failed to mention if these people had in addition changed their diet or started taking medicine.

Finally, my pet hate as a holier-than-thou ex-moderately-heavy drinker, was that when two of the regulars confessed to starting drinking before lunchtime and continuing until late at night on a regular basis, they were treated almost with respect for being so strong, and rather than being advised to cut down, massage of said pressure points was the recommended and sufficient activity. There was also no mention of the most basic disclaimer like “if symptoms persist, please see a doctor.”

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Hokkaido School Board tries bullying a blogger

Desparate to cover up a bullying incident in one of their schools, a Mr Masayuki Akiyama of the Hokkaido Board of Education plucks a few spurious reasons out of nowhere as to why James at Japan Probe should remove not just the allegedly human rights-infringing images, but the whole post as, I suspect, he merely feels it reflects badly on his Education Department. James made a very good and reasoned reply, but now as it seems that Mr Akiyama has the “get English-speaking lackey to email blogger” task ticked off on his to-do list, he has not had the courtesy to follow up on James’ request for clarification.

UPDATE: Trans-Pacific Radio is also covering the same Hokkaido School Board bullying story. Please also digg the stories – see the links in the comments below.

Also, I’ve just seen this good piece on the BBC about the bullying problem.

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