By Lisa Katayama

June 6, Wired

TOKYO -- Steve Jobs' new iPhone, expected to be unveiled Monday, is headed to Japan by the end of the year. But the device's famed ease of use may actually be a put off in Japan, where consumers want features, not simplicity.

Indeed, Japanese handsets have become prime examples of feature creep gone mad. In many cases, phones in Japan are far too complex for users to master.

"There are tons of buttons, and different combinations or lengths of time yield different results,'" says Koh Aoki, an engineer who lives in Tokyo.

Experimenting with different key combinations in search of new features is "good for killing time during a long commute," Aoki says, "but it's definitely not elegant."

Japan has long been famous for its advanced cellphones with sci-fi features like location tracking, mobile credit card payment and live TV. These handsets have been the envy of consumers in the United States, where cell technology has trailed an estimated five years or more. But while many phones would do Captain Kirk proud, most of the features are hard to use or not used at all.

"Some people care about quality, but first and foremost it's about the features," says Nobi Hayashi, a journalist and author of Steve Jobs: The Greatest Creative Director. He estimates that the average person only uses 5 to 10 percent of the functions available on their handsets.

Japan is a culture of spec sheets. When consumers go to electronics stores to buy a cellphone, they frequently line up the specifications side by side to compare them before deciding which one to buy.

Hayashi owns a Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that doubles as a miniature but crisp 3-inch TV. In addition to 3G and GPS, the device has a 5.1-megapixel camera and motion sensors that enable Wii-style games to be played sitting on the train.

"When I show this to visitors from the U.S, they're amazed," Hayashi says. "They think there's no way anybody would want an iPhone in Japan. But that's only because I'm setting it up for them so that they can see the cool features."

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photo by wired