Today, of the 108 million mobile phones in use, 88% offer Internet connections, including high-speed 3G services. Also, 69.2% of all Japanese log onto the Internet from their mobiles, versus 66% who use computers.
Content providers have rushed to serve the millions of mobile users, building a $4 billion annual biz. Among the pioneers and leaders is Disney Japan's Interactive Media Group, which first entered the mobile biz in 2000 and operates 35 subscription services through its Japanese mobile site, partnering with Japan's three top carriers.
They can also subscribe to Disney Mobile, Disney's mobile carrier service, or buy one of four Disney-branded handsets. Disney developed both the service and the handsets in partnership with Softbank, one of Japan's largest mobile carriers.
The core target aud for Disney's mobile services is women in their 20s and 30s -- the demo that drives much of the growth in the entire mobile market. "These women have an extremely close, personal relationship with their mobiles," comments Orrell-Jones, noting that they use their cell phones to do most of their emailing, Web surfing and gameplaying.
Also, unlike Americans texting madly away in their cars (and risking a visit from the police), they can quietly lose themselves for hours in Web-based worlds on Japan's vast public transportation system. "Their cell phones have become indispensable tools," Orrell-Jones says. And in contrast with the American tendency to download content in bits -- a game here, a tune there -- Japanese "are more inclined to subscribe to services," Disney's included.
For foreign content providers, Japan's mobile biz -- which Japanese often compare to the Galapagos Islands for its isolation from the rest of the world -- can be hard to parse. Disney's solution: develop most of its mobile contents, from games to toons, locally with Japanese partners. "There's a great deal of creativity here," Orrell-Jones notes. In other words, in Japan, even mighty Disney has learned to go with the market flow. (Variety)