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iPod mania \'alive and well\' in Japan

updated 11:00 am EST, Fri February 24, 2006

iPod mania in Japan

iPod mania is alive and well in Japan--one of the most competitive consumer-electronics markets on the planet--thanks in part to a slick marketing campaign, according to a new report. The company continues to outsell other competitors by a wide margin--including Sony on its own home turf, according to BusinessWeek: "Despite an array of well-entrenched Japanese rivals, such as Sony and Matsushita, the iPod had cornered 51.3% of the digital-music player market as of the end of 2005, up from about 32% in 2004, according to research firm BCN. Sony was a distant second with 16.2%, while Panasonic grabbed just 8.2% of the market." The success has been in part due to Apple's marketing campaign, which was selected by the Nikkei Marketing Journal as the best of 2005; however, the mobile phone threat looms: "A bigger threat is the growing sophistication of mobile phone-based music in Japan. Cell phones are frequently discussed as potential iPod killers, and Japan's carriers are pushing the hardest to make that a reality."

by MacNN Staff




  1. SavMan

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I know the Japanese are gadget-hungry, but why would you want to replace your iPod with a cellphone hybrid? Besides the fact that you add an entirely new level of complexity, I would hope that I'd use my iPod longer than I have my current cell phone. I'd hate to know I couldn't change providers without losing my music or having to deal with a different player and all those headaches.

    Also, my phone cost $250. It has an MP3 player, but only works off of TransFlash cards. How much would a cell phone with a 30GB hard drive cost? How big would it be? If we start looking at flash memory, we get even more expensive. I just don't understand why people would want to combine two completely unrelated pieces of technology like this. I have, like, six pockets, I can hold an iPod and a cell phone at the same time.

  1. aesculanus

    Joined: Dec 1969



    coming from the states, it's completely understandable how you have no concept of what a good cell phone is. The US carriers and phone have so hammered the consumer, so lowered the bar of quality in the industry, that americans have simply come to accept Motorola and Cingular as how it is.

    Back when the most advance phone on the US market was the timeport, the Japanese already had video. TV - live broadcast, not pre-selected vcast c*** - has been out since early 2003.

    A phone like the razr, even when it first came out, is a joke by the standards over there. and 176x220? screen resolutions over 240x400 are standard over there.

    But perhaps, the most incredible thing about the japanese phone: It can make phone calls. They call in places you can never imagine here, like your office, your bathroom, or in your car. actually, they even work in elevators and subways, but i think that kind of service would be too much for the us market to handle.

    not bad for $45/month unlimited incoming.

  1. aesculanus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    almost forgot my point

    so yeah, the japanese cellphone industry is actually competent enough so that an iPod killer is feasible, especially when miniSD cards (the standard for phones over there) run up to 2gb.

    I'd be hard pressed to buy an iPod if I could get this:

  1. Jim Swanson

    Joined: Dec 1969


    4GB HDD Cellphone

    There is currently a huge advertising blitz for this music cellphone in Japan

  1. Senbei

    Joined: Dec 1969


    keitai culture

    At least with the Japanese market, keitai's are indeed potential iPod killers because there are just far more services available on them in addition to the fact that it is a device more convenient for the typical Japanese lifestyle. Lot of the handsets also offer far better capabilities and makes units like the RAZR or SLVR look like toys by comparison.

    Quite a lot of folks I know don't own a personal computer since everything is done on their mobile handset (email, text messaging, browsing imode capable websites, etc). If phones can easily handle music, this will mean one less thing to carry around.

    QR codes (a compressed type of bar code) are pretty much ubiquitous now which offers an array of both free (like ringtones, wallpapers, information) and paid services. Just point the phone camera at the code and it will decode the information on the screen.

    Vodafone plans to have sets with an electronic funds transfer ability. Suica (a pre-paid intelligent card pass used for commuter rail in place of actual tickets) had a huge campaign blitz earlier in the month which allows using a capable phone to be used. Instead of a Suica card, the handset is just passed in front of the sensor on the wicket to pay the fare.

    Some vending machines are already electronically enabled as well with debit card like abilities. Just press the camera up to the sensor.

    Entertainment is another huge area. Games, chat, video (most of it is amateur p*** though but there are some decent made for mobile drama series), ringtones, etc. Music makes a whole lot of sense but the main roadblock has been the music industry and JASRAC coming up with a feasible provisioning structure. The Japan iTMS has sort of mixed things up a bit on the pricing front but has also shown the bean counters the potential lucrative market if that can be tapped by the keitai market.

  1. macuzr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Senbei is correct

    I totally agree with what Senbei has written. I lived in Japan for a long time and continually return for family visits and all I have to say is that we're so far behind in cell technology it's not funny. Last April I met a cool Japanese guy in a coffee shop in Tokyo and he does everything with his phone. It was like an iPod. PDA, credit card, phone, TV and laptop all in one small form factor. He even had a collapsable keyboard for it.

  1. ibugv4

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I tend to agree. However the j*** also know a good product when they see one. I don't see them abandoning their iPods for the first iTunes-compatible Motorola phone that happens out there or any competitors for that matter unless it supports the DRM-protected AAC files.

    That said... Moto is by far *the worst* and I'll stick with Finnish Nokia, thank you. my 2006 model phone still uses my 1996's adapter. Intercompatability between models = strong sales and success. I mean, the DOCK connector to an iPod proved that, right?

  1. Todd Madson

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The worst part about the phones here isn't so much that they are limited technologically but I'll use an example - my Cingular Sony Ericksson phone has a camera in it but the network only allows you to use the lowest resolution settings on it and when you send a picture home (there's got to be a cable) it's total highway robbery. If you send 20 pictures home, you better have a big budget for the month. Unbelievable.

    Why would anyone want to pay over $1.00 a picture for low-resolution, grainy pictures?

    The japanese have always been smarter technologically. American marketeers just concentrate on basic services and making lots of $.

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