If you want to see the future, watch a teenager in Japan. For young Japanese, the cell phone call--that phenomenon of modern living--is already going the way of 45-rpm vinyl. Phones aren't just for calling; they're for sending e-mail. Since its introduction in February 1999 the Internet-ready iMode phone has been taken up by some 10 million Japanese. It has proved so popular that the carrier, NTT DoCoMo, is now Japan's largest Internet service provider. "All my friends have them," says 18-year-old Aya Shimizu. "We use them all the time to stay in touch."
In the U.S. the acceptance of Web phones is growing rather more slowly. Cell companies have built "microbrowsers" into their latest phones, allowing their customers to send e-mail and check news headlines. Those technophiles who use Web phones swear by them. When Edward Learned, marketing director for an Internet service provider in Minneapolis, gets lost, he simply enters his location and the phone gives him directions. Thumb twiddling is a thing of his past. When he's standing in line, he checks his e-mail, looks up movie times and tracks his portfolio. "I can even pull up a stock chart," he marvels.