Wanderlust Japan > , , , > Galapagos Phones: A Japanese relic

Galapagos Phones: A Japanese relic

When I got my first cellphone in Japan, 7 years ago, this was a common scene:




Japanese phones were the epitome of cool. They snapped forward with a satisfying *click,* snapped sideways, rotated around, took cool pictures, had different applications, could surf the web, came in a seemingly endless assortment of sizes and colors, could read barcodes, had an infrared function, and could even get TV(!) reception.

They were so cool that even fictional characters just had to have the latest model.


I am guessing Cloud and the gang needed an upgrade from the old PHS; one only can wonder if they are using smartphones now.


Because Japanese phones became such a phenomenon they became known as “garakei.” (“Garakei” means “Galapagos keitai.”Keitai” means cellphone.)

This is pretty much what I imagined the first time I heard the term.


These Japanese phones were never meant for the global market. They became a different beast than cellphones created abroad. They could only exist in Japan and non-Japanese makers had a hard time getting Japanese customers to buy their products. That was until…


THIS happened


The next time I found myself living in Japan, Softbank was giving away a free Iphone 3 to anyone who signed a 2-yr contract with them. This resulted in a huge culture shift, a shift that mostly just looked like this:

I miss being able to exchange information with someone via our infrared ports…and I can’t say that a part of me doesn’t miss the planning that went into every mail message I sent. How many stars would I use? Would a smiley be taken the wrong way if I put it at the end of this sentence? Where could I put the little can-can girl icon??

Those were simpler times.


As the smartphone users have climbed to about 50% of Japanese cellphone users, some people still will not switch over from garakei. They are an increasingly dying breed. I for one, will always have a soft spot for my first phone in Japan, the noble garakei.

January 21  Tag:, , ,

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