Over the past 14 years, RAIN has reported to you from around the world — including publishing a week’s worth of early RAIN issues from an Internet-enabled café in Copenhagen, reporting on a popular new trend among young people in Prague called “texting” (way back in 2002), and producing an early cellphone-only version of RAIN in Tokyo, and more.
This week, I’m back in Tokyo, hoping for a glimpse of what our future is going to look like by visiting one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world.
Japan is a country where you can order sushi on your iPad and have it whooshed to your table within moments on an ultra-fast-moving conveyor belt, where robots (specifically, Aldebaran’s Pepper) are being advertised in subway stations, where some dining locations have coin-operated automated draft beer-pouring machines, and where certain vending machines display your possible beverage choices on a 60″ touchscreen monitor.
And the high-tech phone of the future?
It’s the iPhone 5s!
Even though Japanese electronics companies (e.g., Sony’s Xperia line, Sharp’s Aquos line, etc.) are all in the smartphone game and offer attractive, ultra-slim Android devices that are almost all screen and no bezel, it’s the iPhone that’s just overwhelmingly popular.
Actually, this makes sense: Japan has been a great market for Apple products at least as far back as the PowerBook 100. Apple products are both stylish and trendy, and that combination goes over well here.
By coincidence, at the Starbucks where I’m writing this piece, the two young people next to me have in their hands at this moment three iOS devices — two iPhone 5s phones and an ipod Touch.
What does seem more modern here than in the U.S. is how affordable 4G LTE access is.
For example, you can buy a WiFi router here and get 7 gigabytes of data per month for only about $35 per month — i.e., only $5 per gig.
And as near as I tell, data plans for smartphones are a bit more expensive, but still very reasonable.
As for online radio, on the other hand, despite the ubiquity of smartphones and afforable data plans, it’s virtually non-existent, meaning it’s a wide-open opportunity for somebody someday.
More reportage to follow, including a report on my visits to national tv/radio broadcaster NHK and popular FM broadcaster J-Wave, plus an in-depth study of the differences between various rooftop beer gardens.