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iPhone Godzilla Swallows Japanese Cell Phone Market

Apple's iPhone is taking it to the competition worldwide, belying the idea that the iPhone's popularity is a uniquely American phenomenon.

TG Daily reported that "Apple has cleaned up in the smartphone market in Japan," based on a survey of 2,300 retail stores by market research company BCN. The iPhone 3G 8GB, sold by Softbank, easily came in at number one, followed by the 16GB iPhone.

Mobile device strategist Tomi Ahonen noted on a developer's forum he moderates that, "it bodes well for the iPhone 3GS worldwide if gadget-crazy Japanese are falling in love with it." But commentators like Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who cautioned readers to take these numbers "with a grain of salt," have trouble assimilating the speed of change and the suddenness with which the likes of a Nokia, Research in Motion or even a well-entrenched local player like NTT DoCoMo can lose market share. It should be noted that the pendulum swings both ways, as BlackBerry's Curve smartphone overtook the iPhone in the United States during the first quarter of the year.

But before anyone starts going long on Apple for this reason alone, Ahonen offers the following caveats:

  • it's only a weekly chart, so while the numbers are valid, they're only a reflection of one single week. It's like being number one at the box office -- today's Hangover becomes tomorrow's Transformers. That said (or, on the other other hand), these numbers don't reflect the 3G S, which was released in Japan a week after this poll was done;
  • Japan "is perhaps the most fashion-conscious phone handset market in the world (rivaled only by S Korea)." They actually have fall and spring fashion cycle for phones, meaning that unless Apple intends to offer new models every six months, it will have trouble competing with the likes of those, like NTT DoCoMo, that will.
Asian market analyst observer Akky Akimoto of Asiajin also noted that Japanese customers can't register on all three major social networking services, Mixi, Mobage-Town and Gree on the iPhone. "Would you buy a new cellphone/smartphone if you will not be able to use Facebook, MySpace or other common [U.S.-based] social sites?"

[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]

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