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Ever since 1999, when the Web-service/portal known as “i-mode” first appeared on Japanese keitai (cell phones), Japan has been hailed as the world leader in mobile phone technology — until recently that is.

For those of you who may not know, i-mode is the mobile Internet-access service built into cell phones from Japanese communication giant NTT Docomo. It costs ¥315 per month to use and includes the i-mode network, which is Docomo’s closed system, separate from the Internet at large. Within this network there are “official” i-mode sites, which are only accessible from an i-mode enabled cell phone. On sites such as these, users can purchase goods and services and have the payment appear on their cell phone bill. This cell phone-integrated-payment is what makes the i-mode system so special.

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