Japanese phones, email and old people

I’m starting to get really fed up with email. I get over 200 messages a week and usually only a handful of them are not spam. Cleaning out the spam has become a daily part of my routine, much like brushing my teeth, taking a shower and washing the dishes. If I don’t do it every day, my inbox will just grow ugly stuff. So I was surprised to read Nate Anderson’s article called “Teens: E-mail is for old people“.

Is e-mail only for the old? That’s the contention of a string of articles published in the last four months, the most recent appearing today in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle says that in a study last year, “teenagers preferred new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with ‘old people.'” The Mercury News says, “For those of you who have just figured out how to zap spam or manage your inbox, prepare for the bad news: E-mail is, like, so yesterday.” And then there’s USA Today, which makes the claim that “E-mail is so last millennium.”

So, at least in the States, it seems young people prefer instant messaging and MySpace to email, but how about in Japan?

Japanese mobile chat rooms!Well, mobile technology is where it’s all happening and for most young people, the cell phone or keitai is the ultimate communications device. Text messaging is almost obsolete now as all phones use standard email, but there’s so much more. Check out the picture from my keitai‘s manual and you’ll see that ‘chat room’ style conversation is now very much the norm.

Or why not send a video message? My low-end cell phone let’s you send video mail and I think high-end phones even allow for teleconferencing, not to mention the use of Microsoft Word and Excel!

Let me quote Chris Heathcote from his blog about keitai technology:

Whenever you think mobile phones are getting a bit boring, or you want to see the possibilities, or what’s going to happen in the next few years, there’s only one place to look: Japan.

One of the latest features of new keitai here is the ability to use it as cash. Walk into a convenience store, grab what you need, go to the counter and swipe your phone over a bar code reader and the cost will be added to your next phone bill. You can even do the same at vending machines! In fact, with GPS, full music audio capabilities, high-quality digital camera functionality, 3D games and full internet access, young people are passing up on buying a computer altogether – they just use their “phones”!

I don’t know about email being for ‘old people’ or not, but I do know that with a growing number of elderly people in Japan, cell phone manufacturers are falling over themselves trying to make keitai with oversized buttons, screens and fonts, so it might not be too long before there’s a whole generation of silver-haired instant messengers.

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Japanese phones, email and old people

  1. “Whenever you think mobile phones are getting a bit boring, or you want to see the possibilities, or what’s going to happen in the next few years, there’s only one place to look: Japan.”


  2. Yup, every 6 months, it seems that a new model of cell phone is being introduced in the market, with more features – built in camera and video, web browsing, video calling, instant text messaging, photo sharing,video teleconferencing…what’s next? I am looking forward to it…each day, cell phones break the distance barrier – technology in Japan is simply AMAZING.

    Bernise Reese

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