For many Japanese adolescents, cellphone is inseparable partner of their lives, you might have heard. Different from PC, kids can have their own (not-shared with your family/siblings, not filtered by home-broadband), can bring it with you to school, outside, anywhere (it is important when your writing back within 5 minutes to your friend’s mail is the only way to prove your true friendship). The largest Social Network Mixi already got more page views from cellphone than from PC (and #2 Mobage and #3 Gree are mainly on mobile).
Some are said to write their college reports by e-mail on cellphone. (*1) (*2) (*3)
For those cellphone-adapted youth, PC’s QWERTY keyboard does not necessary be the best input device. They had to use PC keyboard fewer times on their computer class, however, 0-to-9 number pads are more familiar, even faster way for them.
If number pads in cellphone order is more convenient, some youth feel easier to use it even for PC. Yes, there are some solutions.
Keiboard+IE is USB external keyboard having cellphone-keypads, mouse-like joy pad and many short cut buttons (for IE, as its name implies).
The same company Mevael are going to sell the new and more compact version, Keiboard+C, with which you can also change 3 cards for PC-type 10 keys and mouse-like direction pad. It will be shipped in January 2009.
There is also a “software” solution. For example, the shareware Beru-Uchi changes your PC 10-keys into cellphone arrangement.
This supports regular cellphone input and pager-originated combined methods which some cellphone support as more efficient and rapid method.
If you are interested in how cellphone pads can be used for making Japanese text, this movie gives you outline.
Actually, these alternatives for cellphone youth are not so popular. One reason is they have no strong motivation to migrate to PC.
And even though cellphone is easier for them, at some point they have to get used to PC culture, when they need to write more complicated documents with images/drawings, spreadsheets and presentations, usually for their graduation thesis, and when applying their first jobs. That is so-called becoming an adult, at least in 2008.
I do not know if the future that office work are processed on cellphone happens or not.
(*1) Cellphone novel contest held in Hokkaido University (which is fairly good one) in 2005 already reported [pdf, J] there were few students submitted their report by cellphone e-mail.
(*2) Prof. Hideki Sunahara, who is also a board member of Mozilla Japan, told that university students send their report via cellphone mail [J] in 2007.
(*3) There are even a story of student who wrote up their graduation thesis via cellphone mail. This story often comes up in people’s conversations, but only source I could find are tabloid articles without school name given. Probably is this Japanese urban legend?
Keiboard+C brochure [pdf, J]