On my way home today I was struck by how many people had a smart phone in their hands. On a train with 28 others, I counted 25 smart phones. Of all the passengers in the car, I was by far the oldest. Everybody else was wearing a school uniform. Looking at the breakdown it seemed like Apple was the clear winner here as 17 devices were iPhones of the 4x variety1, 4 were Samsung Galaxy S2s, and the remaining 3 were Samsung Galaxy Notes2.
What I found particularly interesting, however, was that every unit I spied seemed to be used for the very same thing at that point in time: surfing a web page. Although many people were looking at different sites, I noticed that only the people who were using the Samsung Galaxy Notes were able to navigate a site and read its content without pinching and zooming around the screen like an animal … as though the extra screen real-estate Samsung afforded these consumers allowed them to consume web content in a far more natural and painless way.
But why is this?
Every few months there is yet another report published that shows smart phone adoption rates in Japan fast approaching that of the U.S., yet mobile web development remains such a niche market that it's darn near impossible to find any web development firms that actively promote this as being one of their strengths. Yahoo! Japan has, in my research, proven to be the most forward-thinking organization when it comes to making their information accessible for people visiting a site with something smaller than a 13" screen.
Yes, that's right. Yahoo! Japan is ahead of the competition.
This isn't to say that there are no mobile sites serving Japanese content, though. It's just that there are so few of them that I hardly ever spy a screen where someone is easily reading or interacting with a site that was clearly designed to be used with a single thumb on a screen small enough to be hidden by an open palm.