Apple’s iPhone has become the best-selling smartphone in Japan, potentially ending the perception that the country’s huge mobile market is hostile to foreign brands. Citing figures from Tokyo-based MM Research Institute, a Wall Street Journal report notes that the iPhone sold 1.7 million units in Japan (via exclusive operator partner SoftBank), or 72 percent of all smartphones sold, in the fiscal year ended March 31, and its popularity has pushed the smartphone segment to double in size from a year earlier. Moreover, while the overall handset market in Japan is essentially flat, Apple said iPhone sales in Japan nearly tripled in the latest quarter. The Californian vendor still accounted for only 5 percent of Japan’s 34 million new handsets sold in the past fiscal year, but its market share of phone shipments climbed, while those of bigger domestic rivals, such as Panasonic and NEC, fell.
SoftBank – Japan’s third-largest mobile operator – has certainly benefited from the iPhone effect, reporting a doubling in net income in its most recent financial year. “There were sceptics who predicted that the iPhone would fail in Japan. But they have been proven completely wrong,” SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son said at a recent news conference. The operator now plans to launch Apple’s iPad tablet computer later this month. Apple’s success has bucked recent trends in Japan’s handset sector, where Finland’s Nokia, South Korea’s Samsung and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion have all been unable to gain a significant share.