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Cell Phones in Italy

A message from my colleague Richard Boyd, currently vacationing in the north of Italy:

In the nine months or so since I was here last, northern Italy has undergone some kind of transformation. It is starting to look like Japan. The outside tables in the piazza are filled with people glued to their color cell phone screens text messaging each other, laughing and taking pictures of friends wiht their phones. The most popular one looks like a Panasonic flip phone with a nice big reasonably rezzed screen. These phones aren't cheap. They run about €500. No one under 50 would be caught dead without one.

Is there something about the social fabric of the U.S. that is slowing adoption for us? Social interaction in Italy is very different from Japan. But they have both adopted this method of staying connected.

For whatever reason, Japanese and Europeans generally are tolerant of text messaging input via numeric keypads, while Americans generally aren't. I know that I fall into the American camp on this issue: typing text on a numeric keypad and reading messages on a phone screen don't appeal to me except in situations where no other access is possible.

My belief is that this has to do with first experiences of the Internet and how they shape us. If one's first experience of accessing the Internet is through a cell phone, then small screens and numeric keypad-based text entry will probably always seem reasonable. If, on the other hand, one's first experience of accessing the Internet is through a personal computer, then larger screens and full alphanumeric keyboards (or keypads) will probably always seem to be requirements.

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