Japan marks funeral for second-generation phones
Japanese stores took delivery of no second-generation mobile telephones in January for the first time since their launch as shipments of advanced handsets soared, an industry group said Tuesday.
Japan and South Korea are at the forefront of third-generation (3G) phones, which offer high-speed Internet access and other interactive features and have not even entered the market in many developing nations.
Manufacturers sent 4.08 million cellphones to Japanese stores in January, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association said.
"For the first time, the number of second-generation models was zero," it said.
Japan becomes the second country to be virtually finished with second-generation following South Korea, according to Nomura Research.
Japanese stores continue to offer a small number of second-generation phones, but it is almost impossible for new users to start fresh subscriptions.
At the end of February, nearly 85 percent of Japanese mobile users were carrying third-generation or equivalent phones. Japan's top-ranked NTT DoCoMo Inc. in 2001 became the world's first company to offer 3G.
Despite the success in Japan and South Korea, 3G has caught on more slowly in other countries amid questions over whether customers will pay much steeper prices for features they could find on their home computer.
Third-generation or advanced second-generation accounts for about 50 percent of North American cellphones and 10 percent of Western European mobiles, according to industry surveys.
In Japan, mobile operators have increasingly written off second-generation phones as a source of profit and have been developing more advanced features to woo customers.
More than 60 percent of the phones delivered by manufacturers in January are equipped for digital television broadcasts.
Japan began digital broadcasts in 2006 that allow mobile phone users to watch several hours of interrupted television on their phones without recharging the battery.
"It's the third straight month that such phones make up more than half of the mobile phones," the industry association said.
Some 20 million Japanese now have phones to watch digital broadcasts, which major networks offer for free.