updated 11:05 pm EDT, Thu April 22, 2010
iPhone dominates advanced Japan phones
Apple virtually dominates the Japanese smartphone market, MM Research Institute found in a new study. By the end of the fiscal year ended in March, the iPhone had 72.2 percent of the field with 2.34 million units on Japanese. Its next-closest rival, HTC, had just 11.1 percent, while local phones didn't register until third place Toshiba's 6.8 percent.
The shipments were more than double the 1.1 million iPhones that were shipped a year earlier. Apple in its latest quarterly results had already noted that quarterly shipments for early 2010 were up 183 percent in Japan compared to a year earlier.
Apple's lead wasn't enough to get the lead in the total Japanese phone market but was enough to let it eclipse a number of smaller Japanese companies. Sharp for the fifth year in a row held a comfortable lead with 26.2 percent, helped largely by its carrier-independent, camera-focused AQUOS Shot lineup. Fellow domestic heavyweights Panasonic (15.1 percent), Fujitsu (15 percent), NEC (10.5 percent), Kyocera (6.1 percent) and Sony Ericsson (5.5 percent) were the runners up.
Analysts at the institute credited Apple's burgeoning share to the rough state of rival operating systems in the country. Android and Windows Phone will only get traction in the country this year, MMRI said. The iPhone's relatively small slice of the bigger market was partly determined by its exclusive presence at SoftBank, which is relatively small compared to NTT DoCoMo or KDDI's Au. Most Japanese companies have at least one phone model at each of the top three carriers and in many cases several.
Japan has traditionally opted for phones which lack smartphone-class operating systems but often have a wide range of advanced and often proprietary features. Many have relatively large screens and built-in 1Seg TV tuners to accommodate the long commute times in major cities; FeliCa, a near-field wireless payment system, is also common and lets residents pay for public transit or store items just by passing the phone next to a receiver. The iPhone has none of this built-in and has usually had to rely on companion devices to achieve the feature, but its relatively advanced, easier to use software has also stood in contrast to the limited yet complex interfaces on many native phones.
Below Apple in smartphones (clockwise): HTC, Toshiba, RIM, Sony Ericsson, Samsung