Wherein WWJ staff line up a sexy, passion-red, brand-spanking new J-T08 from Toshiba- with a stunning LCD display – against a dowdy, dull-silver, two-year-old Panasonic P209iS in the handset grudge match of the year! We also toss a Sharp SH-52 camera phone into the ring… Japan’s pocket rockets have come a long way, baby, and it’s tough to beat the Tosh’s sleek lines, world-beating LCD screen, and silky smooth sound. Like their automaker brethren of a generation ago, does this lop-sided fight mean that Japan’s handset makers have mastered the art of ‘continuous improvement?’ We think so – and this program shows you why.
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
Today, WWJ features an admittedly less than scientific but nonetheless fascinating comparison between two icons from Japan’s mobile revolution: a two-year old DoCoMo P209iS and a brand-new J-Phone J-T08. The former doesn’t hold a candle to the latter, and the show looks at how handsets have evolved over the past 24 months. We’ve also got a recent camera phone from Sharp, inventor of the world’s first successful camera keitai.
The differences? Well, where do you want to start? Our show focuses mostly on audio and visual elements, so perhaps it’s interesting to consider handset subdisplays. In 2000, when DoCoMo launched the P209iS with a monochrome, two-line subdisplay, the move was revolutionary, and the handset commanded a premium price. It was so popular that one canned beverage maker launched a line of gold-color signature handsets as part of a campaign to promote canned coffee. In consumer-product-obsessed Japan, this was no mean compliment.
Today, the Toshiba boasts a fully programmable color subdisplay more that twice as big as on the Panny; it’s fully customizable and can show still or video images when in standby mode. It can also be used as a camera viewfinder when using the phone to take one’s own picture (great for customizing your boy- or girl-friend’s handset).
Audio has also improved significantly. Both the Panasonic and the Toshiba happen to have the same ring tone – the “William Tell Overture” preloaded onboard, so we demonstrate the sound that each provides. Again, it’s a hands-down win for Toshiba.
Miniaturization skills learned and transmitted by Japan’s master craftsmen, influenced no doubt by the techniques of an agricultural society, are now being vigorously applied in the design of increasingly smaller, lightweight, high-tech products for consumers who want more functions, less bulk, and a high return on a diminutive but empowered item. Little wonder that tiny products like large-scale integrated circuits in Japan are often called “the rice of the high-tech world,” a reference to both minuscule grains of rice, perfect units in an integrated mass, and the traditional practice of rice calligraphy, in which as many as 32 ideograms are brush-written or incised onto a single grain.
– Stephen Mansfield
But what does this say about ‘continuous improvement’ – that Japan-invented process whereby manufacturers take extreme pride in upping the ante in competing products one technical improvement at a time? It’s clear Japan’s cell-phone makers have mastered this art – and it’s no surprise. The cell-phone is a direct expression not only of technology and immense manufacturing skill, but also of philosophy, and is not unconnected to Japan’s art, religion, and spirituality.