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iPhone losing market share in Japan

This entry was posted by on Monday, 15 November, 2010 at

For someone working in the mobile phone industry (oh wait, that’s not the hip way to call it anymore – we’re in the Information Communication Technology industry) it seems I’ve not kept up with trends here in Japan lately. I was under the impression that Softbank, with their exclusive distribution deal with Apple, had the Smartphone market at its knees in a permanent submissive state. I thought that the iPhone 4 was the almighty ruler of the high end cellphone market in Japan ever since it’s launch earlier this year.

While reports like Android Sales Overtake iPhone in the US and …Android Revenue Eclipses iPhone have drifted before my eyes when browsing the tech writers throughout the Internet, I was thinking that here Japan, there were basically only three Smartphones available, and iPhone was the undoubted king of the hill.

Yes, indeed it was so, back when that above statement was true (iPhone, Blackberry & Xperia), but as you can see from Japanese mobile phone traffic data presented by Trend Research last week: already when Sony-Ericsson’s Xperia was launched by Docomo in the Spring, the iPhone’s dominance started to crumble. The text is all in Japanese I’m afraid, but I’ll give you a breakdown of what the graphs represent:

The first graph shows total Pageviews by operator (regardless of device) – Pink is NTT Docomo, yellow is au, and blue is Softbank. Docomo is the overall leader with au and Softbank fighting for second place.

The second graph shows pageviews by devices classified as smartphones. It’s interesting to note the data in April, June-July, and September of this year in particular. Q: What happened in April, that made Docomo gain that much on Softbank? A: Xperia launched. Q: What happened in June/July? A: iPhone 4 launched. Q: What about October? A: First Android phone from au (by Sharp) and Samsung Galaxy (by Docomo) were launched.

Now, the interesting part is looking at Softbank in this case. They have been losing quite a lot of their initial market share in this high end space. The iPhone has also been their only Smartphone and simply been an “Apple Distributor” for a long time, to put it bluntly. Looking at the latest product roadmap from Softbank gives a completely different, much more interesting, picture:

Softbank Smartphone Lineup (This is of course a dynamic page, so the text I write here describes the situation as of today, November 15)

Note that the iPhone is not even mentioned on the “Softbank Smartphone” lineup page. (It still has a very prominent position above all other phone types on the main product page, of course.) They now have six models (some are not launched yet, though) and all are Android! There are two Sharps, one HTC, one Dell (!) and then two which I haven’t identified the manufacturer of yet (mind you, I haven’t put so much effort into it).

au as a comparison also have six models out of which all except one is Android (last one in Windows).

Docomo have 11 models (including the Galaxy Tab from Samsung) where all but three are Android (I could be wrong here, their web page is not that clear).

All in all, what is my point? Well, it’s going to be an interesting Smartphone market here in Japan going forward – much more than I expected, as there is no one single dominant player right now. Although the elephant in the room is now Google, with an ever gaining share of the Smartphones’ OS here. Looking forward to follow how the market develops!

283 Responses to “iPhone losing market share in Japan”

  1. I had wondered about this and followed the trends since leaving Japan. First there was the news that iPhone wasn’t doing well because it wasn’t Japanese enough. Then came the news that it was absolutely dominating. Now we have gone from only a few months ago where the only smartphones available on any Japanese carrier were Windows Mobile 6.5-based (or iPhone) to an absolute explosion of Android phones. The swift reaction to the iPhone in Japan is fascinating to watch.

  2. Johan

    Yeah, I guess au and Docomo (who don’t have the iPhone) did not just sit and watch in horror as their market share tumbled, but took some swift action to combat it. Upcoming (possible) Android explosion is very interesting.

  3. Johan

    I just realized that the “004HW” model announced from Softbank to be released in March 2011 is made by Huawei, and the “003Z” model is made by ZTE… Chinese invasion of smartphone models!

  4. Sebastian

    What’s happened to my beloved Nippon?? I don’t remember anyone thinking a proper foreign phone would ever survive in Japan, nevermind dominate so much that my brother can now comment on how their share is dropping below what was expected!

    Also, nice to see the blog again!

  5. Before iPhone was released, I was so excited about it. But now, I don’t know. I’m not really into smartphones and iphone doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Maybe cos I love flip phones more, all the keitai available in Japan looks more interesting to me, which unfortunately can’t be used outside the country. The best I can get is only SH930.

  6. Really? It was the opposite for me – I really liked the Japanese cellphones before I had tried an iPhone – but as soon as I tried it and started using it, no way would I be able to turn back to a non-smartphone.

  7. John

    The reason that it is not listed on the smartphone page is because they do not consider it a smart phone. The iPhone is so popular here it gets its own category. If you walk into a softbank shop you have 3 sets of shelves – regular phones, the iphone and other smart phones – and the iPhone has more shelf space than all of the other smartphones put together. When you think about it it is a good marketing strategy. As long as softbank has an exclusive on iphones they don’t want to make it just another smartphone (even though it is) because that would cause customers to start comparing it to what is being offered on the other 2 carriers.

  8. When iPhone appear in shops i was like “wow look at that!” and now i’m still shocked about Iphone cause he can do a lot of things. I just can’t quit using it! Someone told me that blackberry is better than iPhone, and i made a comparison, and guess what! Iphone is better!

  9. Really I thought Japan use only their own phone.

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