Nowadays, it is quite hard to get a cell phone in Japan without a TV tuner built in. The first phones able to make use of the Japan-only “1seg”-system (broadcasting of digital audio and video signals) came out as early as 2005 (!).
Yesterday, Sharp -the king of the ring concerning TV displays- announced sales of cell phones equipped with its TV systems topped the 5 million mark since they were introduced in May this year! The JEITA (Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association) said the total number of phones with a TV function built in totaled 13,2 million units until August this year.
Now, I have to say the quality of the 1seg-system is just great: The video is crystal clear and the audio is of superb quality, too. This means the Japanese really have a technological edge here. By the way, Sharp also announced they will produce TV cell phones with a thickness of just 1,8 cm, making the hardware even cooler (they reduced thickness by 5 millimeters).
However, there is one big problem: As of now, watching TV on a Japanese cell phone (even if it is digital and all that) is crap. Can you do it in a train? No. Can you do it in the metro? No. Can you do it in a car? No. Can you do it in a building? It depends (!). That is right, sometimes watching TV in a normal house is just impossible because there is no signal….
But I am sure Japanese companies will solve these problems someday. And: It is free to use for us consumers.
In the future, mobile TV could also be linked to mobile Internet meaning lots of opportunities for new applications, advertising models, marketing approaches, etc. etc.