Japan, the Galapagos Islands of the mobile phone

By Motoko Kakubayashi 16/06/2010


When I moved to Tokyo earlier this year, I asked my future colleague what mobile phone I should buy.

I had a history of being a Motorola lover, Nokia fan, and until recently, Sony Ericsson’s best friend.

My colleague’s advice was simple.

“Japan is the Galapagos Islands of mobiles.  They have evolved in a completely different way from the rest of the world.”

So, basically this meant I was screwed.

The other day I came across an exhibition of Japanese mobile phones from the 1990s to today.  Even though I had no idea what functions most of them had, it had been an eye-opener to see how things have changed in the last 20 years.

These are some photos I took from the exhibition.  By the way, I used my iPhone to take the pictures.

1994
1994
1995
1995
1997 flip phone
1997 flip phone
1998, Doraemon mobile, a popular children's anime character
1998, Doraemon mobile, a popular children's anime character
1999
1999
2000
2000
2001, the first of many video-call-capable mobile phones
2001, the first of many video-call-capable mobile phones
2002, camera phones have become a normal feature.  This used to be my mobile
2002, camera phones have become a normal feature. This used to be my mobile
2003, a wrist mobile phone which never really took off
2003, a wrist mobile phone which never really took off
2004
2004
2005, designed for senior citizens, the only feature this mobile phone has is to make a call
2005, designed for senior citizens, the only feature this mobile phone has is to make a call
2006
2006
2006, a kid's mobile phone with parental lock features and GPS tracking for worried parents
2006, a kid's mobile phone with parental lock features and GPS tracking for worried parents
2007
2007
2008, a new kind of flip phone which was designed for users to watch TV on their mobiles with ease
2008, a new kind of flip phone which was designed for users to watch TV on their mobiles with ease
2009
2009
2010
2010