Smart Phones Are Smarter Than You Think

If the authors knew more about what's going on in Japan, "Smart phones" (European Business, Oct. 18) would have been more helpful. The short article describing the Japanese smart-phone landscape says "Japan has emerged as a front-runner in wireless Net communications." This should have been more thoroughly described.

There are two types of Web-accessible cell-phone services in Japan--a service called "i-mode" based on homegrown technology and one based on wireless application protocol (WAP). The former is a lot more popular than the latter; i-mode users hit 2 million in mid-October, about six months after the launch date. NTT DoCoMo, the dominant cell-phone operator in Japan, launched i-mode this year, based on its nationwide packet-switched cellular network. Since the service employs a packet-switched, not circuit-switched, network, there is no wait for a connection. If you select a "bookmark" of your cell phone's microbrowser--for example, a weather forecast service--you can get the forecast in less than five seconds. NTT DoCoMo has this kind of infrastructure now, whereas competitors in Japan and elsewhere are still building it.

Web sites tailored for i-modes are flourishing; i-mode's portal site has sites that include banking sites with wire-transfer capability (still an important way of paying in Japan), stock brokerage sites with execution capability, restaurant guides with discount coupons, ticket box offices, flight schedule, and reservations. Smart-phone-based e-commerce is an everyday reality now in Japan.

Hideyo Imazu


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