Why is Japan not producing mobiles like China?

Galapagos Mobile

Japan was one of the earliest developers of mobile phones and started the world first internet access services called “i-Mode”. Refer to Wiki for details; i-mode - Wikipedia It became very popular in Japan and became a national standard, while in other part of the world, it was way too advanced and Japan failed to make it a global standard.

Yet i-Mode was so popular, further domestic development continued to win the domestic competition and made the Japanese mobile market far different from any other countries. It was then called as Galapagos Mobile because of its pretty unique evolution just like those uniquely evolved creatures in Galapagos islands.

Soon after an iPhone was released, many Japanese jumped to it as well making the i-Mode obsolete very quickly. But again due to the domestic competition, Japanese phone makers continued releasing new Galapagos mobiles allowing Google to launch Android which in parallel with iPhone became global standards.iPho…

Why is Japan not producing mobiles like China, Japan have more advanced technology?


Why is Japan not producing mobiles like China, Japan have more advanced technology?

 

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While China has caught up technology wise, calling consumer electronics today as high tech is partially problematic.
One thing people need to remember in regards to technology is what exactly one means by high-tech. Consumer electronics used to be a high margin, high profit, low sale kind of product. They used to be technologically intricate relatively and not just anyone could start manufacturing them. Over many years, this industry's products has become more and more a commodity. Remember, only 10–15 years ago, TVs were going for easily a couple thousand for a 40 inch TV. Today, a 42 inch TV can go for a couple hundred dollars. Another good examples is semiconductors and computers. Years ago, computers were many thousand dollars and were built to be used over many years. To accomodate this mindset, Japanese semiconductor companies such as NEC, Fujitsu, Hitachi etc. made chips that were durable and last many years. As computers became commoditized (people buy and replace computers often, as computers became cheap), Korean and Taiwanese semiconductors which focused on output, but didnt last as long, and much cheaper took over as durability was no longer a requirement.





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The thing with smartphones is that it is pretty much the same idea. The technology within it is not very high tech and it is easy for any company to build them. Everyone uses it, the margins are lower and Chinese electronics companies with a cost advantage are taking over. That being said, there are still very high tech components inside a smart phone that require intricate, and high tech manufacturIng. Ceramic capacitors made by Murata electronics, CMOS sensors made by Sony, NAND flash made by Toshiba etc. compose a large portion of the high technology components are still Japanese technology in smartphones. But in general, most consumer electronics are no longer really "”high tech”. Any company can buy the components and stick them together. Our society tends to view these very visible pieces of technology as high tech because we use them everyday and are very visible. That being said, it is likely in no time these pieces of technology become easier to make and are no longer hard for competition to produce: in other words Chinese and other Asian companies will find a way to make them. Technologies such as lithium batteries used to be very expensive, but have become cheap and easily adapted.
Many of the Japanese electronics companies have either collapsed due to margin degradation or have moved away fron Consumer electronics. They have adapted their technology in niche or higher tech or margin industries. Take for example, Fujifilm. They still produce film and cameras, but what isnt well known is that they have a big chemical and biomedical business developing new drugs. Hitachi which used to be seen making people's microwaves and TVs produces high speed trains, steam turbines, MRI scanners etc. Panasonic is into developing high capacity lithium batteries, avionic software systems etc. Toshiba medical (now owned by Canon) produced diagnostic chemistry analyzers, MRIs, etc.
That being said, Japanese electronics did/does have a huge flaw. They are not well adept with software and integration. Consumer tech has moved more toward software, internet application and services. Companies like Apple I would argue are not an electronic manufacturer per say, but more a service company. Apple doesnt make or produce the iPhone, but buys the components to make a phone and what people pay for the phone is more paying for the system itself (iTunes, iCloud, iOS etc.). Japanese companies were well designed for the analog world, prodiving quality workmanship, and durable products. While this fine, it was only a matter of time when cheaper competition catches up and the quality becomes good enough. This can be seen in the kind of products they sell. Sony is still a major player in producing CDs, Blu-ray disks and were pushing things like MD discs etc when people have moved toward streaming and cloud storage.
Many Japanese companies have moved to understand this, gone out of business or abandon their consumer electronics roots and move to higher margin businesses. My answer to your question is three fold. 1) Consumer electronics is no longer "high tech" 2) China and other countries like S Korea and Taiwan have caught up and have an advantage of lower cost 3) Japanese manufacturers were weak in software integration so their products were not adapted to the digital, cloud, computing world.

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