Jason in Japan

My Cool Cellphone

December 12, 2005

Vodafone 902T
Vodafone 902T
One of the best things about being in Japan is having a cool cellphone. Everyone in Japan has a keitai (short for keitai denwa -- mobile phone), and they're all several orders of magnitude cooler than the ones we have in North America. They generally have a large display on the inside -- an important feature, since people here generally use their phones more for sending text messages than actually talking. Of course, messaging isn't limited to plain old text; it's also possible to send pictures, videos, and sounds, as pretty much every keitai also has a built-in camera and microphone. If you want to go crazy, you can get a really fancy phone with the works -- GPS, maps and directions, 3.2 Mpx digital camera, etc.

Having a cool cellphone was among the many things I've wanted to do in Japan. That said, it cost me quite a bit of money to move here, and quite a bit more to get established since I arrived, so I didn't want to spend a lot. Luckily, it's easy to get a cellphone in Japan for free (a really cool one at that), which usually involves signing up for at least a one-year plan. So that's what I did. (If you're not really interested in all the nerdy details, by all means, just skip ahead to the gallery).

There are several cellphone service providers here -- Vodafone, DoCoMo, and AU being the major ones -- and they all carry a pretty big lineup of different phones. DoCoMo's offerings were pretty scant, but AU and Vodafone both have lots of cool phones to choose from. I ended up deciding on the Vodafone 902T (the "T" denotes that it's made by Toshiba). It has a nice big display (240x320) on the inside, and a small, second display (112x112) on the outside. The latter displays the date and time, and status info such as signal strength, battery charge, etc.

My phone has not one, but two cameras in it, either of which can be used for taking pictures, or recording video. The internal camera is above the main display, and is mostly intended for video conferencing. On the backside of the phone is the main "external" camera, which takes photos at up to 1.9 Mpx (1600x1200), and shoots up to 20 minutes of video at a maximum resolution of 320x240. The phone has enough internal memory to take a couple dozen high quality photos, or record about two minutes of video. However, it also has an SD memory card slot on the side. I bought a 512 MB card for it, and now I have plenty of room for photos, movies, silly ringtones of my favorite JPop tunes, etc.

One neat feature of my phone is that the display can be rotated 180. It can then be closed again, with the large display on the outside; this mode is ideal for taking pictures or shooting movies. Since the external camera is much higher quality, it's also handy to rotate the display and open it all the way, so that the large display faces the back; this mode is useful for taking photos of yourself (which Japanese people love to do).

If one gets bored of taking pictures and sending messages, this phone offers plenty of other ways to stay entertained. It supports downloadable "v-appli" (Java-based programs) -- games, comics, books, etc. My phone shipped with trial versions of a few games, including a couple of full-blown role-playing games. I also downloaded a cellphone version of SimCity. You can use the phone's web browser to access "Vodafone Live" -- basically a web-based portal for downloading wallpapers, ringtones, videos, music, games, etc.

The phone supports Bluetooth, Infrared and USB connectivity. Bluetooth is great; it can be used to wirelessly connect your phone to your computer, and transfer files, contacts and calendars. Even better -- I can use the phone as a wireless modem, to go online (with my PowerBook) from anywhere that has cellphone coverage. There are two options -- a 64 Kbps connection (charged based on how long you're online), and a faster 320 Kbps connection (wherein the charges are based on how much data you transfer). Either way it's not cheap, but it could definitely be handy to be able to get online from basically anywhere.

I could go on for awhile longer about it, but I think I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, my cellphone is totally cool. Mission accomplished.