Slashdot has a great posting which acts as an antidote to the domestic “Gosh iPhone is Wonderful” worship from many US Gadjeteers and IT pundits. I repeat the essence here:
“With a high level of technical sophistication, critical customers, and high innovation rate, Japan is the toughest cell phone market in the world. So it’s not surprising that although Apple is the third-largest mobile supplier in the world, selling 10 million units in 2008, in Japan the iPhone is selling so poorly it’s being offered for free. The country is famous for being ahead of its time when it comes to technology, and the iPhone just doesn’t cut it. For example, Japanese handset users are into video and photos — and the iPhone has neither a video camera, multimedia text messaging, nor a TV tuner. Pricing plans in Japan are also very competitive, and the iPhone’s $60-and-up monthly plan is too high compared to competitors; a survey lat year showed that among Japanese consumers, 91% didn’t want to buy an iPhone. The cellular weapon of choice in Japan would be the Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that doubles as a 3-inch TV(see image above) and features 3-G, GPS, a 5.1-megapixel camera, and motion sensors for Wii-style games. ‘When I show this to visitors from the US, they’re amazed,’ according to journalist Nobi Hayashi, who adds, ‘Carrying around an iPhone in Japan would make you look pretty lame.'”
Now this does not take away from the iPhone’s multi-touch and GUI innovations(it appears the Panasonic could use a few lessons here). But it is bracing to see that some people are recognizing the Darwinian advantage that Japan has had for many years – much better broadband and cellphone infrastructure. So it should not be a surprise that a TV Tuner, 5.1MPixel camera, GPS and Wii-like motion sensors should appear on a Japaneses cellphone already over 1 year old. Innovation accrues to the environs which are fertile for them. This will be working against the US as it tries to emerge innovative from its current economic malaise.