Teens are Hung up on Mobile

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It's not new that Japanese teens are on the cutting edge of technology. They were the first generation that had mobile phones before they were 12 that were fully 3G, camera-equipped, and loaded with internet capability, GPS locators and much more. Already last year they were able to access broadcast TV on their mobile phones. One 16-year-old girl told us, "The only way I get to really watch much television is on my phone because of all my homework and activities with friends, and I get to check my [text messages] all the time while I am watching."

The constant wave of new services includes digital radio service, which offers radio, music and movie broadcasting, as well as free music users can download to their phones. And shopping is getting easier. This month Mizuho Bank is introducing barcode transactions through mobile phones, allowing users to purchase items at retail stores simply by waving their debit-card-loaded phones over the items.

Another hit is Mobegah Town, a kind of free Second Life for mobiles, where users can create avatars, build blogs, text message and create friendship circles. Launched in September, it had 2 million members by year-end. Having a mobile site, keeping diaries and using the site as a base for creating a truly mobile lifestyle is almost compulsory. And free home-page-making sites such as Freepe make it easy.

E-mail translation sites are popular with Japanese kids who are meeting Korean teens on the many Korean sites that have become part of the rage for Korean pop culture. And Softbank is launching Cyber University, with all courses available online and over mobile phones.

But just because today's teens use their mobiles all day doesn't mean they don't read. We found that the kids who used their mobiles the most were also most likely to spend time reading-magazines and manga (Japanese comics), which are crossing over more and more. Last year the market for manga via mobile phones was around $20 million, but expect that to explode. Manga publisher Shuei-sha introduced a service in December that allows users to read unlimited manga on their phones for a monthly fee of about $2.50.

One teen told us: "I read mobile novels in class and constantly check rankings ... to see what other people are reading."
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