Last year our article “Is iPhone a Laggard”, talked about how Apple’s slow integration of multimedia messaging in Japan would cost it valuable market share percentage points and hurt it’s overall development in Japan. But after reading the Wall Street Journal’s article “iPhone Is Big in Japan“, it seems as though Apple has found away to chip away at its flaws and make big gains in the Japanese market, something that is a rare event indeed.

What makes the Japanese market so enticing to any smartphone company foreign to Japan is that “Japanese phones are already more sophisticated than most U.S. smartphones”. Japanese consumers have always been loathe to purchase foreign technologies, and have tended to support the indigenous manufacturers (Sony, NEC, Panasonic, Hitachi…). With that in mind, we reported that Apple was growing extremely slowly in Japan even with the carrier SoftBank giving away the phone with a 2 year subscription plans. The reason was its poor (in OS 2) support for MMS. Well that’s changed. A lot.

“The iPhone sold 1.7 million units in Japan, or 72% of all smartphones sold in the past year.

One of the reasons and the principal reason I believe that the iPhone has caught on like wild fire is the Apps store. Having great Apps makes all the difference. It is one of the principal reasons for anyone, especially young people, to own a smartphone.  Without having Apps you literally have a telephone and text messages – not that exciting.  So for Apple and third parties to develop Apps that cater to Japanese culture using cartoons and animé such as Astro Boy, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the iPhone has caught on.

For an American firm such as Apple to have increasing market share and captured a leading position in an important category like smartphones in Japan, challenging the supremacy of Japanese brands, is a sign of market openness and speaks to the world-class innovation and increased confidence in American technology products.

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