Posts Tagged docomo

Nov
15

iPhone losing market share in Japan

Posted by on Monday, 15 November, 2010

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!

Oct
24

Today is MNP-day

Posted by on Tuesday, 24 October, 2006

Softbank
Today is MNP-day in Japan. MNP stands for Mobile Number Portability (Japanese Wikipedia, English Wikipedia) and basically means that you can switch mobile phone provider without changing your phone number. Before starting to work in the telecom industry, I would have thought that it did not take any great technical effort to do so, but I have come to understand that it is no walk in the park.

Here in Japan, the cell phone industry is very interesting at the moment. As you know, Softbank bought out Vodafone’s Japanese operations earlier this year, and started using the brand “Softbank” from October 1. Since Softbank took over, there has been a big change in the branding and advertising of the company. While Vodafone heavily focused on brand image and globalization, Softbank is clearly more local and to the point in their advertising. Vodafone used famous stars trying to push an image of Vodafone onto the public, whereas Softbank are using more traditional Japanese advertisements emphasizing the products or pricing plans.

The day of MNP has been known for a while now, and there has been massive speculation over what will happen when this possibility is introduced. Given the past poor performance of Vodafone, and recent good performance by KDDI’s au, it has been the common opinion that surely Vodafone will lose a lot of customers to the more hip and technically advanced au after October 24. The third (and largest) player, NTT Docomo has been generally believed to stay rather flat, maybe losing a few customers to au as well.

However, with the change from Vodafone to Softbank, all bets are now off again. Softbank have been very active in the media lately, and as I said above, has vastly changed its image and distanced itself from Vodafone which probably have had a positive effect on its brand. No longer are the same clunky phones used in Europe also marketed in Japan, but new, slim, modern phones unique for Japan are starting to show up. Further, the held a big press event last night on the eve of the MNP announcing 予想外割引 (‘Yosogai Waribiki’ = Unexpected Discount) which is a super-discounted plan open to people signing up for a Softbank account from today until January 15, 2007. Basically you pay 2,880 Yen per month (about $25) and for that you get 200 free minutes per month as well as basically free messaging and 2 months free web-browsing and some other things. With this extremely cheap plan as well as a generally low pricing structure compared with its competitors, I would not be surprised if Softbank actually gains users through the MNP instead of losing them.

My predicitions (will check the stats at the end of the year to see if I was correct):

au : Will gain some users (mainly from Docomo)
Docomo : Will lose some users (mainly to Softbank)
Softbank : Will gain some users (mainly from Docomo)

[UPDATE]
It seems I might be right… Softbank stops accepting new applications due to overflow of orders