Posts Tagged mobile


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!


It’s not your fault, Kimi

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 December, 2006

Softbank are running yet another brilliant ad right now. This time, it’s an ad for the new gold plan which entitles free calls between Softbank users weekdays beteen 1 and 9 PM.

Summarized translatiion:

Girl 1: Ok, call me later, before nine.
Girl 2: Yeah, I’ll call your cellphone, until nine, right.
Girl 3: We’ll call you too, Kimi.
Kimi : No, no, you don’t have to bother calling me, it costs money!
Girl 2: Oh right, you don’t use Softbank.
Kimi: Sorry!
Girl 2: No, no, it’s not like it’s your fault or anything.
Girl 3: Yeah, don’t worry about it, really!

This is my new favorite. It almost beats my old favorite one, the commercial which started the Yosogai hype


Ericsson wins new customer in Japan

Posted by on Monday, 13 March, 2006

Cell phone radio tower
Ericsson selected as primary 3G and HSDPA vendor for eMobile in Japan

Ericsson will be the prime supplier of WCDMA radio networks in the metropolitan areas of Japan (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka) and a complete nationwide core network. eMobile will roll out the network very quickly and plan to launch commercial services in March 2007. UPDATE: March 2007 is only for Data services; Voice services planned for February 2008.

Finally this was made public since about an hour back. I’ve known about it a while, but for obvious reasons I could not say anything about it earlier. I think this is very good news for Ericsson – picking up one of the two main new players in the 3G market in Japan (the other is Softbank, where nothing is clear yet). It will be interesting to follow what strategy eMobile will have for their cell phone services; will they take the low-cost route, or try to compete on interesting new features? Most people seem to think they will be a traditional vendor, and not do anything more revolutionary than lower prices – but we will see.

UPDATE 3/14:
Some interesting questions that were posed by Japanese media at the press conference; one was, what happened to Lucent? It was announced early 2005 that eMobile were testing Lucent equipment and everyone assumed that they would win the contract, however, now Lucent is nowhere to be seen? In response to this, eMobile said: (translated by me)

First of all, Ericsson is contracted to build an access network in the Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo regions. As far as the other regions go, no decision has been taken yet – we are investigating this intensely. We may go with multiple vendors, 2 or 3, or it may end with only one (Ericsson).

Further, regarding the terminals (the actual phones), a question was posed regarding the likelyhood of Sony-Ericsson getting to supply them, now that Ericsson will supply most of the network.
eMobile Chairman and CEO Semmoto said:

We are discussing with domestic and foreign vendors about supply of terminals. We cannot give any names at this moment. Since we have chosen Ericsson to supply the network, it is obvious that Sony-Ericsson would be a good match. That Sony-Ericsson is a candidate for supplying the phones is rather safe to say.

However, President and COO of eMobile Taneno was quick to add that

We have not yet reached that far in our discussions with Sony-Ericsson.


Softbank to buy Vodafone Japan?

Posted by on Monday, 6 March, 2006

This weekend saw some interesting developments in the Japanese cell phone market; apparently, Vodafone and Softbank are in talks regarding the possible sale of Vodafone’s Japanese operations to Softbank.

This is interesting on many levels, and although I really haven’t thought about it and made up my mind on what this will mean for everyone involved, these are my first thoughts about it:

– Softbank recently was given a new 3G license by the Japanese government to start up their own mobile phone service in Japan. If they now buy one of the original license holders, where does that leave the competitive situation? One of the reasons for giving out new licenses was to increase competion – the net effect of this deal is that we will only get one new major player in this market, not two as orignally planned. Will the government give out a new license to someone else?

– NTT DoCoMo and au (KDDI) should be scared by this news – they have been rather safe in the Japanese market for a while with Vodafone never putting up any serious competition, and personally I do not see eMobile (another new license-holder) being a big threat to the major players. Softbank was always the big threat to the other companies, but especially so for Vodafone who was the smallest in the market. If Softbank and Vodafone joins together, Softbank gets a quick start to its business and can move rapidly ahead with its presumed plans to revolutionize the cell phone market in Japan (at least that’s what everyone is hoping for/worrying about).

– I don’t want to be blunt, but I say this deal is also the beginning of the end to Vodafone (you read it here first, remember that). Whereas I see many positive comments about this in the news, I cannot see anything positive about this in the long run for Vodafone. Basically they are saying “we are not smart enough to be competitive in Japan, so we are quitting” – Japan is the most important cell phone market in the world, for crying out loud! It is a test bed for nearly all major technological innovations within the mobile phone market, and they are simply stepping out. Vodafone has lost its ability to grow organically, and where they find themselves in a bind, they leave (they sold their local company in Sweden too, a while ago). Mark my words, you will not see Vodafone on the cell phone market in a few years.

All in all, it is very interesting news – and I will follow it closely.

UPDATEIt seems that I was not the only one thinking in these terms – the other “new” license-receiver eAccess (eMobile) has apparently announced that they will submit a request to the government to withdraw the 1.7 GHz license from Softbank if they buy out Vodafone. Source: ItMedia (in Japanese)