Japanese device maker Fujitsu is reported to be planning an international expansion, driven by its smartphones which target older users.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the company is set to offer a version of its Raku Raku Smartphone, currently sold in its home market by NTT Docomo, tailored for users in Europe and the US.
Significantly, the paper said that the vendor has no plans to internationalise its high-end Arrows smartphone range, which target a mass-market user base.
Masami Yamamoto, Fujitsu’s president, noted: “As the Japanese market has already hit a peak, we have to sell devices overseas to increase our sales numbers.”
And the company is looking for modest growth – from 8 million units in fiscal 2012 to 10 million in fiscal 2014.
But the company is following a path a number of its domestic counterparts have attempted, with little in the way of sustained success.
As recently as the GSMA Mobile World Congress in February 2012, Panasonic announced plans to ramp-up its international smartphone efforts. By October, there were reports that it is set to scale this back after failing to gain traction in Europe, although the company is also facing pressure in its other units, making mobile phone growth an additional drain on resources.
Japanese handset giant Sharp has also attempted to build its position beyond its domestic activities, as recently as 2011 announcing a deal with Orange to offer a variant of a device it developed for NTT Docomo – although since then there has been little movement from this vendor outside of its home market.
Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, along with NEC and Toshiba, which have also looked for international growth previously, are facing increased competition in their home market from vendors including Apple, Samsung, HTC and LG Electronics, who have been able to capitalise on growth in the country’s smartphone sector.
Previously, international vendors had struggled to gain traction in Japan, due to the availability of feature phones from Japanese vendors which supported a number of technologies unique to the country – including Japan-specific TV receivers, contactless commerce technology and domestic mobile internet services.
Contrastingly, while global smartphone players have been able to crack the Japanese market, these players have also created a competitive global landscape which has made it hard for the Japanese vendors to gain traction overseas – especially as they have failed to gain a foothold in the 3G and feature phone markets.
Despite their particular strengths – for example, Panasonic’s consumer electronics prowess – these companies have struggled to create differentiated products that are appealing to international consumers.
As Fujitsu’s Yamamoto told The Asahi Shimbun: “We don’t have the luxury of spending huge amounts of money to promote a brand, like Samsung.”
By targeting a niche rather than a mainstream market entry, Fujitsu may be able to better target its marketing and promotional efforts – rather than attempting to take on brands such as Apple, Nokia and Samsung across-the-board.
But Fujitsu is not the only player targeting older users, an age group that is set to become much more important as the balance of populations in developed markets shifts toward senior citizens.
Specialist handset maker Doro is looking to build a smartphone ecosystem targeting older users, while mainstream vendors (and operators) also see this as an important – and growing – niche.