December 2, 2013
Newest iPhone Models Take Japan By Storm
Bryan P. Carpender for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Until two months ago, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, NTT DoCoMo refused to carry Apple’s iPhone devices. Now, with iPhone’s availability on all three mobile carriers, Apple’s market share has surged to over 76 percent of all smartphone sales in Japan.NTT DoCoMo’s longtime holdout against Apple came to an end after the company realized it needed to regain market share from other smaller wireless carriers who were already offering iPhone handsets. NTT DoCoMo’s refusal to join the iPhone trend was due in part to its desire to focus on Android platform smartphones from Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.
Another reason for balking at the iPhone inclusion was NTT DoCoMo’s vested interest in protecting and promoting its developing 'lifestyle system' which includes its online store, dmarket – a digital entertainment marketplace similar to Apple’s iTunes.
In 2011, NTT DoCoMo’s Chief Executive Officer stated his refusal to carry iPhones was due in part to Apple’s refusal to allow custom carrier branding and preinstalled apps on its iPhones. After the exclusion of iPhones caused them to lose 3.2 million users, NTT DoCoMo quickly changed its tune and finally began carrying iPhones this fall.
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is.
US wireless carrier Verizon avoided getting into the iPhone game for years, instead choosing to back BlackBerry’s attempts to launch the Storm handset, which fizzled out after just two generations.
Verizon then got behind the Android platform, positioning the 'Droid' branded handset as a powerful alternative to iPhone. When that strategy failed to ignite sales, Verizon finally relented. After launching iPhone 4 in 2011, they saw the sales of Apple’s smartphone dwarf the combined sales of all of its Android-based models.
Now that all three wireless carriers in Japan support the iPhone line, the numbers tell the rest of the story. The most recent weekly sales rankings show 9 of the top 10 smartphones are iPhones, with various capacity iPhone 5s models capturing seven slots and the iPhone 5c nabbing the remaining two.
Curiously, the only non-iPhone device in the top 10 was not from Samsung or Sony; it was a low-end handset by ZTE.
Although there has been an expected jump in iPhone sales with the newest additions to the iPhone line, the percentage of the sales increase was lower than with the launch of iPhone 5.
"Apple's share of the market still remains lower than when the iPhone 5 was released, although this is not wholly unexpected, as shoppers tend to react more positively to 'full' releases than incremental improvements such as the 5s and 5c," said Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
The iPhone 5c, with its bright range of colors and lower price point was designed to appeal to a broader audience and provide an entry point for new customers to try the brand for the first time without a hefty price tag.
"The good news for Apple is that this wider appeal is attracting significant switching from competitors. Almost half of iPhone 5c owners switched from competitor brands, particularly Samsung and LG, compared with 80 per cent of 5s owners who upgraded from a previous iPhone model,” continued Sunnebo. Attracting new customers and luring them away from competitors is one of Apple's strategic strengths.
Though the iPhone is currently dominating the market in Japan, time will tell if it can maintain its surging market share. In the meantime, you can bet the other manufacturers are going to be stepping up their game to see if they can reclaim a larger piece of the pie.