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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 (s aapl) 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 (s rimm) 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.

15 Responses to “iPhone Pretty Big in Japan After All: Report”

  1. therealmusashi

    It is amazing how long people will deny the iPhone’s success in Japan (in spite of it being reported everywhere), and cling to this antiquated 1980s view that Japan is some high-tech wonderland that the west just can’t match. Wake up.

    I live in Tokyo and work in mobile software – Japanese phones are huge, goofy flip-phone affairs, with giant CMOS sensors and mind-bendingly terrible software. Comparatively, the iPhone seems like an absolutely magical device from the future.

    • Lenny Davis

      So what percentage of Japanese people own iphones?
      A number would put everything into perspective. If it is 46% of smart phone users then that would make it less than 1% since smart phones take up 2% of the market.

    • patternmusic

      > Even if it is 20%, this means 1 out of 5 people have iPhone in Japan?

      No it does not! Far from it.

      The report which is cited is looking at people’s preferences among products that qualify under their definition of “smartphones”. It does not have anything to do with penetration of iPhone among cell phones or the general population in Japan.

      And from what I can make out of the report summary it isn’t based on sales statistics. It a survey based on the preferences of “smartphone” users.

  2. patternmusic

    I’m sorry, but the 46% number is incredibly deceptive. iPhone doesn’t really account for a very large number of actual units because the popular phones in Japan don’t technically qualify as “smartphones” (whatever that means). The popular phones in Japan are very powerful 3G and 4G cell phones with large touch screens, TV tuners, book readers etc.

    I think you need to find some unit number and compare them to other types of cell phone sales in Japan if you want to get some real perspective on the penetration of iPhone into the Japanese cell market.

    Also App Store sales in Japan are tiny compared to other markets like Europe and the US.

  3. Hi. Im living in Tokyo at the moment (and own an iphone) and 2 thoughts on the incredibly high number –

    1. The Japanese “smartphone” market itself is tough to define as the handsets with features like TV, mobile wallet are not smartphones here. I guess the study is using the category of phones with a full QWERTY keyboard and with Japanese kanji input that is not a big need.

    2. Most people I have seen with iphones here are foreigners like myself and I think the penetration among Japanese is still pretty low. Even the carrier SOFTBANK is way behind the leader DOCOMO and more popular among foreigners.

    However the TechCrunch study is absolutely right and the marketing is pretty aggressive for the iphone, and its definitely gaining in popularity. Just think the 46% number is definitely bloated at this moment.