Still on the topic of Japanese cell phone culture. I found few interesting services offered to costumers. The most interesting one I found was ‘E-Wallet Service’. Imagine a wallet free future, where when you leave the house, all you need to bring is your cell phone; Replacing credit cards and identification cards with cell phone.

This new technology is in fact not so new for Japanese cell phone users. Since 2004, cell phones in Japan were able to pay for small purchases such as buying soft drinks at the vending machine and buying train tickets at the station. Japan’s largest cell phone service provider, NTT DoCoMo, first enabled this service. Starting 2005, DoCoMo expanded their e-wallet service by working together with major travel companies, banking organizations, fast food restaurants (such as McDonalds) and convenience stores. People were able to purchase local flights and even gain access to certain corporate security doors (e-Identification service). The smart card chip, FeliCa is put into these mobile wallets and just by wave of a hand at close range, people can purchase goods and it also can act as a personal identification device (can be use as a boarding pass to certain flights). As of 2007, quarter of the Japanese population (approximately 30 million people) own this mobile wallet.

So my question here would be, ‘why while Japanese been using this service for almost six years, no other countries are doing the same?’ The answer lies simply in unique Japanese cell phone culture. In Japan (as I mentioned in my previous post), cell phone has become part of people’s everyday life. It has become a necessity to all Japanese, center of their life. However, for this service to work, as stated by Leslie Berlin from The New York Times, “cell phone manufacturers, carriers, financial institutions and retailers must all play roles” and this is very difficult for other countries, especially the United States because they have so many different manufacturers, carriers and banks. Normally, the more factors there are in an equation, the harder it is to achieve something especially because these organizations are very competitive against each other. This is why other countries will have to wait a while longer to enjoy this service.

Some Interesting Articles (References):

Business Week
‘$5,000? Put It On My Cell. DoCoMo’s next big move: Phones that double as Credit Cards’

The New York Times
‘Prototype Cellphones as Credit Cards? Americans Must Wait’

‘Burger paid for by mobile phone’

IEEE Xplore
‘Here comes the wallet phone [wireless credit card]’

Press Relesae at Paris – Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre
‘Contactless cell phone payment and e-ticketing: Japan leads the way at CARTES & Identification 2007′