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New Accessories Help Define Look of Today's Youth

April 3, 2000

One cellphone accessory consists of an old-style handset.

Today in Japan about one in three people own a cellular phone. As of the end of February 2000, some 49.9 million people had signed up with a cellphone service, a four-fold increase over four years. In addition to their practicality, these phones have become an essential part of youth fashion. This may be why, along with the amazing growth of the phones themselves, sales of accessories used to decorate cellulars have also blossomed; there are now over 1,000 such products on the market.

Goodbye to Straps
For some time now, the cheapest and most popular cell-phone accessory has been the strap. There is no shortage of people who collect rare or unusual straps, fixing them to their phones several at a time. Recently, however, more and more users are choosing to go "strapless," opting instead for simplicity in their cellulars. In the competition for quantity and rarity of straps, the strapless cellular has emerged as the new and fashionable look. "The fuss over straps is symbolic of big-city booms, where a trend quickly overheats and then cools off soon afterward," analyzes one expert. How will fashion seekers react to this new strapless look?

The Utilitarian Age
There are a host of other popular gadgets that are both utilitarian and playful. Topping the list are "telephone receivers," which range in style from those found on traditional telephones to ones shaped like a shoe or banana. The primary lure of these items is the ease with which they can be used for making calls just by connecting them to a cellular phone. Users stick them in their bags (they are too bulky to fit in pockets) and when a call comes through, they pull out these "receivers," causing surprise among those nearby. This novelty item has been the best seller among cell phone accessories.

Another popular device is a ball-point pen that catches signals from a cell phone and flashes to indicate incoming calls. At 780 yen (about 7.09 U.S. dollars at 110 yen per dollar) each, the pens are reasonably priced, and one large accessory store reports sales of up to 100 pens per week.

Stuffed toys that move or emit a sound to alert their owners of incoming calls can also be found on the market. One such item is shaped like the popular animation character Doraemon and plays the character's theme song to signal a call. Though a bit too cumbersome to carry around, it is perfect for use at home, where people generally put their phones down in one place. Yet another fancy accessory is a pair of boots with a cell-phone case attached.

The main ingredients of all of these items are convenience, novelty, and playfulness. These qualities are utmost in the minds of product developers hoping to win over today's young consumers, who are always looking to keep up with the latest fashions and assert their individuality.

Just Watch Where You Use that Thing
Cell phones are evolving to include color liquid-crystal screens, e-mail capabilities, and three-chord-harmony ring signals. In spring 2000, a cell phone equipped with a television screen is scheduled to go on sale, and the market for complimentary accessories is sure to heat up even more.

Not everyone is happy about the cellphone boom. The results of a recent questionnaire conducted by a railway company indicated that the number-one nuisance on trains is the use of cell phones. Many people are hoping that this is one trend that dies away quickly.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.