iPhone Pretty Big in Japan After All: Report

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Despite early reports that the iPhone wasn’t selling so well in Japan (LINKS), due at least in part to the overabundance of really cool phones available there that do things like allow for live TV watching, it seems that Apple is in fact doing remarkably well in the country. Better, in fact, than it’s doing in the U.S., according to a new report (Japanese only).

Impress R&D, a Tokyo-based research firm, released a report this week that places the iPhone well ahead of the competition with 46 percent of the Japanese smartphone market. That’s a ridiculously high number, especially when you compare it to the iPhone’s rather modest second place in market share in the U.S.

The 46 percent figure is a combined total of both the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS, which account for 24.6 and 21.5 percent of the market, respectively. Up next closest is the Sharp WillCOM W-Zero 3 Advance, with 14.6 percent. The BlackBerry doesn’t do nearly as well in Japan as it does here, with the Bold accounting for a mere 1.2 percent market share.

These numbers discredit the widespread assumption that the iPhone was having a tough time appealing to Japanese consumers, who have in the past been unreceptive to foreign interlopers in the cell phone market (as evidenced by the BlackBerry’s dismal performance). Wired even went so far as to claim that the Japanese “hated” the iPhone, a stance based on aggressive pricing and giveaways engineered by Japanese iPhone carrier SoftBank. Mobile Crunch sees such efforts as having made the difference between the iPhone and competitors like BlackBerry:

A major reason for this development is the hyper-aggressive marketing strategy SoftBank Mobile, the iPhone’s exclusive carrier, pursues in Japan: TV commercials virtually around the clock, print ads in major media, super-competitive pricing etc. do have an effect, it seems.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen any of this coming from Docomo for Android or BlackBerry, so it’s no wonder virtually no one in Japan (where I live) knows what these devices actually offer – apart from geeks, obviously.

Whatever the reason, Apple’s ability to successfully market itself in established, new and emerging markets outside of the U.S. bode well for its financial future. Winning at home is great, but in today’s economy, if you can win on the road, too, you’ll be much stronger for it.

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