It’s an entirely different story for the iPhone in Japan than anywhere else…

In a terse one-line press announcement “SoftBank today announced it has signed an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone to Japan later this year”. (Of course we are talking about the 3G i-Phone, because Japan has almost switched off the 2G networks, and has essentially stopped selling 2G phones for a couple of years now. The current initial 2G iPhone uses GSM and therefore cannot work in Japan, which has no GSM).

iPhone’s main competitors in Japan will be SHARP and KDDI’s design series, at least for the forseeable future – an entirely different story than in any other country in the world… read below.

Japan's mobile phone handset market size and market shares in 2008 compared to the world market
Japan’s mobile phone handset market size and market shares in 2008 compared to the world market

About 25% of the global cellphone market in terms of cash value is in Japan. – Why? Japanese users want a lot more functions (navigation, mobile payment, QR code, mobile shopping, mobile music and video, mobile TV, …), and are happy to pay much more per phone. Japan is a totally different game: while NOKIA has about 40% of global market, NOKIA’s marketshare in Japan is almost zero.

Competing in Japan will be an entirely different story for the iPhone

Japan’s cell phone is entirely different than anywhere else in the world – recently some people including Japanese Government officials have used the nickname “Galapagos islands” for Japan’s insular and very advanced cellphone market. Indeed, our company in a project for the European Union Government documented in details how Japan’s cellphone services are 3-5 years ahead of Europe’s, ie a large range of cellphone services common in Japan have not yet been introduced in Europe.

For this reason, while the current 2G iPhone is at the high priced top-end in the US or in Europe, in Japan the 2G iPhone does not even work, because Japan has no GSM and essentially has not been selling any 2G phones any longer for a couple of years now. Many mobile services, which Japanese phone users have become accustomed to, are missing from the current 2G iPhone. Japan therefore will be a benchmark, and we expect that selling the iPhone in Japan together with Japanese customer feedback will help Apple to dramatically accelerate iPhone development. Competing in Japan will make the iPhone stronger we believe.

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