The Japanese Hang Up On Handyphones

The alternative to cellular can't compete

Several years ago, Tokyo hairstylist Mitsuko Shimizu decided it was time to get a mobile phone. Like many Japanese consumers looking for economy and quality, she opted for the new personal handyphone system, or PHS, the homegrown technology that offers cheaper service and a smaller handset than normal cellular phones. But after a free six-month trial, Shimizu, 26, grew frustrated over the difficulty in placing calls because of PHS's limited range. So she switched to cellular, where prices and handset sizes were shrinking. "I can call anywhere now," says Shimizu. "I wish I'd started with a cellular."

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