Chris Bracken

Apple Reinvents the Phone?

26 January 2007 | 1 Minute Read

After watching the Steve Jobs iPhone keynote, I have to say I’m a little disappointed. While this phone has a slicker GUI than any other phone I’ve seen, it’s not so much the $499 US price-tag, but the stone-age functionality of the phone compared to what we have here in Japan that makes my jaw drop.

Here in Japan, 3 years ago in 2004, for 1 yen, I had the following in a cellphone:

  • 3G download speeds of 50 Mb/s.
  • Two-way video-phone.
  • Built-in fingerprint scanner (for security checks).
  • MP3 player and download service.
  • Edy BitWallet (like Interac, except you swipe your finger on the phone’s scanner to accept the transaction).
  • Can be used as a Suica train pass.
  • Can buy movie tickets and scan in at the theatre, bypassing the lineup.
  • Can wave it at vending machines for food and drinks.
  • Will figure out train routes, transfer locations and times, and ticket prices.
  • Can scan barcodes which take you to websites – eg. scan at the bus station to pull up the schedule or scan a magazine to order a product.
  • MP3 player and download service.
  • Decent email (+ attachments), SMS, calendaring, notepad.
  • Automatic location triangulation (by determining which antennae are nearby) and location-aware mapping, shopping/restaurant listings.
  • Interactive mapping of current location with zooming and scrolling.
  • Integrated graphical web-browser.
  • 1 megapixel Camera, Video camera.
  • Display/graph your phone usage to the day.
  • Can write and deploy your own Java/C/C++ applets.

If you go for a high-end phone with more than the above (e.g. built-in TV tuner), you’ll need to pay more than one yen, but the price range is normally below ¥20,000 ($200 Canadian). In its current state, the iPhone won’t sell in Japan even if it’s free; Apple is going to have to do some major work if it wants to compete with even the bare-bones models on the market in Japan.