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Twitter phones to hit Japan

Japanese carrier Softbank is bringing new Twitter phones to Japan. Will users continue to embrace the short-messaging service?

Mobile phones exclusive to Japan have long been more sophisticated than those in the rest of the world. And while smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry have changed the way U.S. consumers use mobile devices, the Japanese market continues to roll out new features and functions that can make the rest of feel a tad behind the curve.

Softbank, the third largest carrier in Japan, announced on Tuesday what are effectively "Twitter phones," using the app as a key marketing and sales driver. Twitter will be preinstalled on all 13 models rolling out this summer, either as an application or widget on the phones' homepage.

The Twitter widget installed on a mobile phone. Softbank

Twitter has been very successful in Japan for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the majority of residents in big cities commute via public transportation, leaving them plenty of time to play games and communicate on their mobile devices. And surveys have shown that many people feel their mobile phone is enough, meaning they don't bother with a PC or other device.

One interesting note is that Twitter has experimented with advertising on its Japanese site, and also has a partnership with Digital Garage (PDF) to support growth in Japan, including commercialization and subscription efforts.