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iPhone in Japan: Top Seller or Not?

April 29th, 2010

You may have seen reports that the iPhone now commands 72% of the smartphone market in Japan, and if you read this blog as well, then you may be wondering why I haven’t commented on that yet. Here’s the reason why: the smartphone market in Japan isn’t all that big. I knew that the iPhone’s penetration in Japan wasn’t even close to 72% just from what I see on the street. Sure, I see an encouraging number of them–one can spot several during any subway ride nowadays–but absolutely not a majority. So far from one, in fact, that it was immediately apparent that the sub-market Apple got 72% of must not be all that big. And here’s a blog post showing that to be true: Apple’s actual share of the cell phone market is 4.9%. That sounds just about right–1 out of 20 seems to match what I see on the trains and on the streets these days.

Now, if you go from being incredibly impressed at 72% to being greatly unimpressed by 4.9%, remember that the iPhone was supposed to fail horribly in Japan, whose people were supposed to hate it, and that 4.9% in less than two years is a rather impressive showing, especially in such a tough and competitive market, and when your product is only sold by the least popular of the top three service providers.

It will be interesting to follow the iPhone over time, and see how the iPad–even more of a cypher for Japan before the fact–does here as well.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone Tags: by
  1. Troy
    April 29th, 2010 at 11:05 | #1

    Interesting dynamic that reminds me of the pre-Windows 95 days.

    When I was FOB in 1992-93 going to Akihabara was a magical experience, with Fujitsu, Sharp, and NEC having their own proprietary PC systems, all mutually incompatible.

    Windows sucked of course and Mac OS was hitting peak usability with the Japanese Language Kit or KanjiTalk. Mac OS presence in Akihabara was pretty strong.

    Then Windows 95 came and utterly captured the desktop market. With the recession and endaka people just couldn’t pay Apple’s prices any more since Windows 95 was good enough.

    So now we’ve got the same domestic players with their proprietary offerings, and Apple comes in with a better but higher-priced alternative and Microsoft is all set to bring its copycat product to market later this year finally.

    History may not repeat, but it rhymes.

  2. Troy
    April 29th, 2010 at 12:11 | #2

    heh, doing research on what DOS/V was I found this paper:


    which I think you might like. It was written in 2000 but it applies to Apple’s recent defensive measures WRT Adobe, too.

  3. Troy
    April 29th, 2010 at 12:11 | #3

    ^ I read that on my iPad, too

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