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Japanese phones suffer from 'Galapagos Syndrome' -- are too complex to survive abroad

Tim Stevens

While Americans are pining for smartphones even though they don't have any idea how to use the things, in Japan people not only pocket far more advanced cellys than here, but use them productively. More than twice as many people use smartphones there than do in the States (despite less than half the population), but the companies making those phones have been hopeless when it comes to catering to the international mobile space. The problem is largely design, whether it be clunky user experiences, a complete inability to sync with PCs (fughettabout Macs), or bulky clamshell exteriors enclosing more widgets than that dusty Radio Shack down the road. Companies like NEC and Sharp previously took pride in their quirky mobiles, but, with the JDM handset market shrinking rapidly, most are looking to inject some Western sensibility into their Eastern handsets in the hopes of finding success in foreign lands. Evolve or die is the word, meaning next year we might just find something headed our way from those annual showcase teasers.

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