Bad dataplans killing iPhone adoption in Japan, Canada
February 28th, 2009

Back in June of 2008, many tech writers speculated that the iPhone might not go big in Japan. For my part, I wondered if philosophical and cultural differences might constitute barriers to adoption. I reasoned that the challenges would be practical as well as aesthetic.

Turns out the speculations were correct, though not for all the reasons we thought. Wired writer Brian X. Chen, explains in his “Why The Japanese Hate the iPhone”:

“What’s wrong with the iPhone, from a Japanese perspective? Almost everything: the high monthly data plans that go with it, its paucity of features, the low-quality camera, the unfashionable design and the fact that it’s not Japanese.”

Canadians also feeling the iPain

Bad pricing isn’t unique to Japan. Here in Canada, the iPhone’s data plan is prohibitive for many – including myself. As much as I appreciate the technical virtuosity and elegance of the iPhone, I’m alienated by an unreasonable cost of use. And I am not alone. Many Canadians, outraged by telco gouging, signed the following petition:

“Increasing numbers of users have paid several hundred, and in some cases more than $1000, during one month for data usage that would have not been charged extra on any other North American carrier on their best data plan.”

Vancouver’s Tyee described Canadian data plans as “shockingly expensive” when compared to other countries:

“In fact, Canada not only trails the U.S. and Western Europe, but Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania, Asian countries such as Malaysia, and African countries such as Rwanda all offer unlimited monthly data plans for less than $50.”

One thing is abundantly clear: The greatest threat to mobile innovations like the iPhone isn’t consumer behaviour, cultural differences or reception to features, but epic and unregulated telco pricing. What’s needed is nothing less than a telecommunications revolution in which mobile developers and consumers join together to demand better data plans that are both competitive and realistic for these thoroughly mobile times.

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, news that Chen’s article (cited above) contained misquotes. Response to that story here. Despite the issues with Chen’s piece, my post above wasn’t especially dependent Chen’s cited responses, but problems with dataplans (as my chosen headline and commentary make clear). Facts about global dataplans are widely available and not in dispute.


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