Posted by Mike Evans in Japanese Phones on February 1, 2010

Japanese phones used to be years ahead of anything we had here in Europe and decades ahead of those in the US, but not any more. The latest US and European smartphones are super-slick devices with gorgeous user interfaces, while the latest Japanese phones are almost the exact opposite.

Take these two new Japanese phones, for example. The top one is the KDDI Lotta (derived from the English word ‘lot’, which, amusingly, KDDI seems to think means “luck”!), which was designed to be minimalist and inexpensive.

Although it’s obviously unfair to compare it to the much more expensive iPhone, it looks bland, and it hardly has any features – it doesn’t even have Bluetooth!

Compared to the LG Pop, which is a low-end phone sold across Europe and the US that manages to add a touchscreen and smart user interface for a similar price, the KDDI Lotta looks like something from the 1990s!

But worse is to come though…
KDDI Lotta
Just look at this foul offering, below. This is the DoCoMo L-04A, whose vile colour was presumably used to detract from the woeful overall experience that the phone offers (a bit like Motorola painting its RAZRs pink few years back!).
DOCoMo L-04A

You only have to look at the user interface to see the gaping chasm now emerging between the average Japanese phone and the latest range of smartphones from Apple, Google and Palm.
Docomo L-04A user interface
Docomo L04A
It’s not that the Japanese companies are incapable of producing phones that match the iPhone and the rest – far from it – it’s just that across Europe and the US the latest trend is for a super-slick user interface that the Japanese don’t seem to be that interested in.

The end result is Japanese phones looking like ancient dinosaurs when compared to the superphones coming out of the US and Finland, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever see!

I’ll keep an eye out for this trend at MWC 2010 in a few weeks, so stay tuned for some further investigations into the state of phones across the world.

[Sources: Tech-On, EPrice]

2 replies to this post
  1. why are you comparing western smart phones to regular japanese phones for youth market.
    they do have smart phones in japan too and they are pretty damn nice.
    have you thought about the cultural differences before you start judging the functions of phones from a country different than yours?
    yes iphone’s interface is great but it’s just depressing to see everyone who has a bit of money is walking around tapping on it.
    the north america regular phones in terms of design are just old and plain,
    the japanese phones are colorful,different and shows individuality, to me, that’s something more futuristic than plain old black/sliver shitty phones.

  2. Sorry, Sheneek, no offence meant. Indeed, I even said “it’s obviously unfair to compare it to the much more expensive iPhone.”

    The point I was trying to make was simply that the different markets across the world have fundamentally shifted in recent years. Across Europe and the US, Japanese phones were famous for being years ahead of anything we had. But with the advent of the iPhone and touch, it’s the software that matters more now, not the hardware, and here, the US leads (and as a European who was proud of Nokia’s lead and Symbian’s UK roots, I find that galling!)