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iPhone 3GS Is Number One In Japan 250

mudimba writes "The iPhone 3GS 32GB is currently the best selling phone in Japan (the 16GB version came in at number nine). This is in stark contrast to reports from earlier this year that the Japanese hate the iPhone. Nobody is sure what specific features caused the change of heart, though it is speculated that video capture and voice control might be part of the answer. When the 3G iPhone first came out it saw a spike in sales, but unlike the 3GS it was unable to outsell locally-made handsets."
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iPhone 3GS Is Number One In Japan

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @08:15AM (#29103953) Journal

    This is in stark contrast to reports from earlier this year that the Japanese hate the iPhone.

    This "hatred" was debunked [] shortly thereafter:

    AppleInsider has posted a great article explaining that Wired's story about Japanese iPhone hate [] was completely false and has been edited at least twice []. The comments in the article were recycled and taken out of context, with those interviewed blogging about [] the mistakes []. The piece then goes on to analyze the iPhone's standing in Japan, as well as some of the major factors working for and against it. At last it points out that the Wall Street Journal tried the same myth of failure [] just after the phone's launch in Japan, recycled from a myth the year before [], pushed by a research company with a possible anti-Apple agenda [].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @08:27AM (#29104043)

      Firstly, the Japanese, like much of the civilised world, have a distrust of the Linux operating system. The iPhone however runs using a variant of BSD, Linux's big, more professional daddy, and hence is trusted and enjoyed by those who value honour and pride, such as the Japanese.

      Secondly, it is well known that phones running Linux-based OS's still require the user to drop down to a termnial screen to modify text configuration files to change things like their phone background or ringtone. This is unacceptable.

      Thirdly, Linux requires the user to have a beard and/or a weight problem. People such as this are shunned by Japanese society, and rightly so. The natural consequence of this is that users of Linux phones are also shunned.

      Together these reasons make it clear why the iPhone is acheiving such a success in those faraway eastern lands. They are so far away, aren't they?

      • by dintech ( 998802 )

        When I was in Japan recently I noticed a pretty huge volume of Softbank commercials on TV demonstrating the new features, so it could be that. Anyway the 3GS isn't much different from the 3G so I don't think there is any one feature that has suddenly got people buying it. I think it's the almight Apple marketing machine learning from previous lessons.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kagura ( 843695 )
          I just got back from Japan a week ago. I was amazed at the number of iPhones there, considering last rumor I heard the Japanese hated them. I asked someone and they said the internet was not unlimited (in the US, internet on iPhone is unlimited). Can anyone confirm that? I wouldn't have expected them to not have unlimited internet on their phone included in the plan.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Koutarou ( 38114 )

            This is incorrect, you cannot subscribe to a Softbank iPhone plan without the "Packet Full" data option, which is price-capped at about 4400 yen. (Its a sliding scale with both floor/ceiling caps - you have to pay at least 1000 yen and can't get charged over 4400). In practice, every iPhone user pays the 4400 yen price unless all they do is use email.

            (Note, tethering is not included in Packet Full)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BuR4N ( 512430 )
      No "Hatered" needed if the phone is missing an important feature like MMS, it just makes it inferior to other offerings. But that have changed now and its on pair in that area and ahead in several others, so its no surprise it sell well. I personally prefer a simpler/smaller more rugged phone, but I understand the appeal (!) of it, its a great product.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by donaggie03 ( 769758 )
        How is this a troll? The Japanese are notorious for their SMS and MMS use; even more so than Americans. Releasing a phone in Japan without these capabilities would not garner huge sales. Or is it a troll because previous IPhones DID have these features?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by mcvos ( 645701 )

          How is this a troll? The Japanese are notorious for their SMS and MMS use; even more so than Americans. Releasing a phone in Japan without these capabilities would not garner huge sales. Or is it a troll because previous IPhones DID have these features?

          MMS support is (or was, at least) useless on the iPhone 3G. My wife MMSed me a photo, and I had to pick it up at a website.

          SMS support is excellent, however. Very nice interface. I like it a lot.

          My main problem with the iPhone is that it's too restrictive: Apple blocks useful apps from the app store, and I can only buy an iPhone together with a 2-year subscription as a network that sucks. I think I'll try that HTC Hero with Android next.

        • How is this a troll?

          Shut up, Flamebait!! :D

        • by MMInterface ( 1039102 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:50PM (#29109495)
          I wouldn't call it a troll just somewhat uniformed as SMS MMS isn't what they usually use in Japan, its an email based protocol. Some phones such as many Softbank phones come with SMS MMS but that's mostly for international use and the default messaging protocol is a form of push email. Tons of phones released in Japan do not have SMS MMS. Their largest carrier Docomo didn't have any for a long time until and when they did it was for their line international phone. SMS MMS is not an issue there.
      • by rednip ( 186217 )
        Undoing a moderation misfire, I tried, insightful and got redundant. It amazed me that this was marked troll, but maybe the other guy did the same thing.

        With the 3GS I'm on my second iPhone, and the only improvement I could see for it (besides better battery life), is to make it water proof, or at least moderately water resistant.

    • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:04AM (#29104387) Journal

      Indeed, although it's just as much a pro-Apple agenda that spread the news: if people don't like a product, it's much better if you can dismiss it as an irrational hatred, rather than considering the possibility that they might *gasp* actually prefer other phones.

      For this news, I'd be curious to see market share. Since Apple only have one phone, and Nokia etc have loads of different products, looking at single phone sales whilst useful in some contexts, is not useful for judging who's number one (it's the multiple choice fallacy where votes get split between similar products).

      There's also the obvious point that the phone has only just been released - it's misleading to claim "Number One", since this is a figure based on one month's sales, not quarterly or yearly, let alone total phones in existence.

      And since the Iphone is the only phone that gets covered on Tech sites like Slashdot (god knows why), it's not surprising that they'll do fairly well. I fear we'll have a self-fulfilling prophecy where we end up with it being the most popular phone, precisely because of the coverage solely on this one phone. And then we'll end up with a monopoly platform on mobile platform that's more locked down and controlled by a single company. Nice one, Slashdot!

      For all we know, those other phones may have been number one (indeed, one of them must have been), but we wouldn't have heard about it on Slashdot.

      Consider - what was the Number One phone, last month in Japan, and why wasn't there a story about it? Or the Number One phone in the US, come to that? It's only news if it's unusual.

      Of course I'll probably be modded down now for providing possible explanations that don't fit in with the pro-Apple viewpoint here.

      • Since Apple only have one phone, and Nokia etc have loads of different products...

        You didn't read the summary. It plainly states that the 16GB iphone is number 9. That would indicate 2 things

        1. Apple has more than one phone being looked at
        2. Nokia phones are looked at individually also
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by brkello ( 642429 )
          No, he read the summary. You read his post but failed to comprehend it. He isn't saying that they aren't looking at multiple phones individually. He is saying that you should add up all the different phones that nokia sells with all the phone Apple sales to get a real comparison. Since Nokia sells a lot of different models, it is natural for Apple (which sells very few models) to have a model come out high on the list.
      • "Consider - what was the Number One phone, last month in Japan, and why wasn't there a story about it? Or the Number One phone in the US, come to that? It's only news if it's unusual."

        Two possible reasons:

        1) You can't get it outside Japan so the US-centric readership of Slashdot doesn't care.
        2) You said it yourself - it's only news if it's unusual. That's kind of the definition of news.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Pikoro ( 844299 )
          Also, it needs to be noted that the iPhone is only offered by SoftBank, which is the 3rd smallest carrier in Japan. The iPhone's sales are still dwarfed by phones offered by the 2 largest, NTT Docomo and KDDI's au.

          Also, here in Japan, softbank coverage is absolutely the worst ever. No building penetration, dead spots inside of major cities, etc...

          If it wasn't locked to SoftBank, I might pick one up myself, but the phone is to make calls, and if I can't do that, then the phone, by association, sucks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maharb ( 1534501 )

        I don't know if its just me but you seem to be implying that the iPhone has become popular because of articles about it. I think there are articles about it because it is a good phone that is popular. People like to read about things they like and buy and thus its easy to get high readership on an article about a something that people love. I want an iPhone but not because of articles. I want it because in my opinion it's the best 'phone'(palm top) out there. It may not have the most features and black

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I have the iPod Touch and I think it may be one of the greatest devices I have used, when I have wifi, and it is still lacking many of the iPhones features.

          Precisely. I also just got a free ipod touch with a recent laptop purchase and to my huge surprise, I think the thing is as cool as all get out. I'm a serious computer dork and I didn't want one of these things at all because I didn't think that having one of these was worth bothering with when I can just use a regular computer just as easily. Howev

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      I guess this also debunks the long-standing idea that Japan and Europe are so far ahead on cell phone development that no U.S. cell phone could possibly compete with their amazingly advanced technology.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      There is an element of truth in the reasons given. For example, my Japanese friends are all very big on using their phone cameras and sending the photos to each other. The 3G has a very basic camera with no auto-focus and pretty low image quality. I have not seen output from the 3GS camera but it is supported to be a lot better.

      OS updates have made improvements in Japanese text input too. The web browser, while a big step up, was never quite as revolutionary there as most phones had one and most Japanese we

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dasmoo ( 1052358 )
      You're really citing Daniel "make shit up as I go along and claim it's the truth" Eran as a source?
      The iPhone is considered a big, bulky, slow phone in Japan. Maybe the speed of the 3GS makes it more appealing.
      Actually, you're probably Daniel Eran, so it would make sense to cite yourself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kagura ( 843695 )

        You're really citing Daniel "make shit up as I go along and claim it's the truth" Eran as a source? The iPhone is considered a big, bulky, slow phone in Japan. Maybe the speed of the 3GS makes it more appealing. Actually, you're probably Daniel Eran, so it would make sense to cite yourself.

        Strange. I just got back from Japan a week ago, and anecdotal evidence be damned, there were a ton of iPhones there. I was amazed it was selling so well.

  • The iPhone 3GS 32GB is currently the best selling phone in Japan (the 16GB version came in at number nine).

    Is that indicative of storage being that big of a factor for phones? Or that the locally made devices compare to 16GB but not 32GB?

    As a non-iPhone user, I must admit the iPhone is a touch bulky for me to use as a music device while I work out. Love my 2GB shuffle though. I guess I could see this with movies/videos on the iPhone but is there any reason I'm not getting that one would enjoy 32GB of storage? Maybe it's the stereotype that Asians take a lot more pictures than Americans? If these number

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cheetah ( 9485 )

      If you haven't seen most Japanese Phones, they tend to be larger on average than American cell phones. The iPhone is about the same size as most phones here in Japan. It is a little wider but thinner than most phones but it is very normal in terms of bulk(volume).

      In fact one of my Japanese friends just brought home a 32gb iPhone two days ago. So I asked him why he bought the 32gb version vs the 16gb. For him at least it came down to comparing features of the iPhone vs other Japanese cell phones. He fel

  • Gaming (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EMeta ( 860558 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @08:39AM (#29104165)
    The iPhone is turning into one of the foremost portable gaming platforms. Even the nice Nokia phones can't claim that. They've put Civilization on it now, FPSs, RTSs. The screen size:total size ratio is probably the highest yet of a gaming device. What's not to like?

    I'm not saying this accounts for all the sales, but this is Japan we're talking about.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      What's not to like?

      Lack of openness?

    • Re:Gaming (Score:5, Informative)

      by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:23AM (#29104595) Homepage

      What's not to like?

      The lack of proper buttons, which are fairly essential for many games? Every time you want the user to press somewhere on the screen, you lose some screen estate due to the finger covering the parts at and below that point.

      • by EMeta ( 860558 )
        This is very true. Street fighter would be impossible. But you actually gain a lot by being able to make any of the screen a button. So I see this more as a trade-off than a direct disadvantage. Certainly you could never comfortably play civ on the PSP, and pinball is much more intuitive with the right half/left half buttons than I ever found it with control pad controls.
      • I have to agree, but it really does depend on the game. Taking a couple of SEGA's offerings as an example: something like Super Monkey Ball using only the accelerometer for control is perfect (if not overly sensitive however for my tastes), but Sonic the Hedgehog utilizing the arrow-disc on the lower left and another layered floating button control on the right is far too cramped during game-play, and the left portion of the screen is indeed overly obscured. I think more thought needs to be given to keep
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xkhaozx ( 978974 )
        Contrary to what? Having screen estate completely removed for some buttons?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jeeeb ( 1141117 )
      Sorry I don't think that's been a factor at all. The device has been promoted as a life style package with points such as easily being able to look up restaurant reviews, the nice cut and paste functionality, good navigation software and the ability to read manga on being emphasized in commercials.

      Now of course none of those points are particularly original and infact I have a bottom of the range Japanese phone that can do all of those things. However the iPhone does make them convenient, does look good
    • They've put Civilization on it now

      I was always afraid this would happen. I wonder how many people now are going to die from deep vein thrombosis because they were playing Civ while sitting on the can for hours on end? Just... One... More... Turn... UGHH! I AM DOOMED!!!

  • Emoji (Score:4, Informative)

    by tmkn ( 1520967 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @08:50AM (#29104251)

    Basically every Japanese cell phone supports "emoji" emoticons, but iPhone was long without the support. This definitely was a deal breaker for some people, especially younger consumers. []

    It's officially only available for Japanese customers, but it can be unlocked: []

    The instructions sound suspicious but I personally tested this on 2.2 firmware and it worked. I can now use emoji in text messages, tweets, or any other text field. It's also a great way to amaze your friends who have iPhones; every iPhone from 2.2 up supports viewing emoji by default.

  • by donnacha ( 161610 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @08:57AM (#29104313) Homepage
    Although Japan is an important market in it's own right, success in Japan is more important for the ripples in creates in the rest of Asia. Trends in Japan remain an important influencer in the region, with Asians generally paying far more attention to Japanese fashion, pop stars, gadgets and movies than American equivalents. Apple has negotiated an initial sale of 5 million iPhones to Unicom in China, the news that it is now the No. 1 phone in Japan (and ripple affects such as more Japanese pop stars and actors using them) will make that first 5 million sell even faster. With North America, Europe and, now, key parts of Asia on board, the rest of the world will follow. What we are looking at here is the emergence of a global computing standard that will be with us for decades.
  • by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:03AM (#29104369) Homepage
    The Japanese dig the compass.
  • So, as an ignorant American I am baffled by the rest of the list. The Sharp SH-06A is the no. 2 phone? It seems to be a fairly boring clamshell phone with a nice camera. Am I missing something or do the Japanese just really value a good camera? Sharp phones in general, can someone explain them?
    • by nloop ( 665733 )
      and the Panasonic 830p as no. 3? Seriously, it's not much cooler than a Razor! Is that just the cheapest phone that peoples mom get when they get a phone?

      I'm kind of disappointed with the Japanese. I was expecting much cooler gadgets. I'll take my Android based MyTouch over those any day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      So, as an ignorant American I am baffled by the rest of the list. The Sharp SH-06A is the no. 2 phone? It seems to be a fairly boring clamshell phone with a nice camera. Am I missing something?

      You are indeed missing something. The Japanese cell phone market is completely different from the European or US market. The whole things is well explained in this New York Times article []

      Basically it's a software vs hardware thing, and it boils down to this: Unlike the rest of the world market, which is software oriented right now (and this one of the reason apple is doing so well), the Japanese cell phone market is actually much more technologically oriented.

      All it takes for a phone to be "cool" in t

  • japan is identified by foreign consumers, apple users included, as a tech haven. high tech things come from japan and it is presumed only high-tech things will survive in japan and become popular.

    for apple, having their iphone shunned by a japanese public was a death sentence in some sense for both asia markets and the US. if the japanese dont want it, word of mouth dictates the iphone is stupid, or inferior, or lacks features that superior japanese technology like nokia would have. the snub from the j
  • market share? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mshultz ( 632780 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:58AM (#29105021)

    The 32GG 3GS may be number 1, but the article doesn't mention what sort of market share it takes to claim that spot. I was just in Japan for most of this summer, and I went looking at phones with some Japanese friends. There are just SO many feature-rich phone choices out there from all of the major carriers that no single model really seemed to stand out as a market leader. If the 32GB 3GS got even a small bump in sales, that could have pushed it into first place.

    As for the swipe payment option, I expected to see things like Mobile Suica [] used by lots of people, but it really doesn't seem to be too common yet. Most people still seemed to pay for train and subway trips with regular Suica [] (or Pasmo, Icoca, etc.) cards in their wallets. It's certainly a cool feature, but it apparently hadn't been adopted by a large part of the population yet.

  • by jparker ( 105202 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:23AM (#29105395) Homepage

    I don't have any evidence, but if I had to guess I'd say that it's the app store that made the difference. The app store is truly transformative, in many non-obvious ways.

    It brings network effects to the phone. For a while it seemed everyone I knew had a RAZR, but the popularity of the phone added no value to the individual user. With the iPhone, however, the popularity of the phone brings increased developer attention, which the app store translates to improved functionality, creating a positive feedback loop. Friends will also recommend apps to each other, further creating a network effect, and reminding the non-iphone-owning friends what they're missing.

    The app store brings the best form of lock-in Windows ever had - But will it run my apps? - to the phone. Suddenly no non-iPhone can be a true upgrade, since you will likely lose some of your app functionality. Common things, like interfaces for major social sites, etc., will likely be standard, but everyone will have a different set of apps they consider crucial, which will make upgrading difficult. The breadth of the app store has brought the long tail to the phone. It also allows people to be very picky. I spent a several weeks testing out various todo lists on the iPhone, and I won't be happy to change phones unless it has a todo list that meets the very specific criteria I developed.

    Certainly other phones will soon have access to app stores of their own, but the huge lead that Apple now has will make it very hard for someone else to catch up. They'll tout how they don't have the same approval headaches that the iPhone does, and that openness will be great. But we don't have to look far for lessons on how the popular operating system can be vastly inferior, yet still more successful than competitors.

    The iPhone app store sets the iPhone up to succeed for all the reasons that Windows has. I think it's going to take a significant technology leap or other serious market disruption to stop them at this point. Regardless of how you feel about Apple, you have to respect the the way they've played this.

    • but everyone will have a different set of apps they consider crucial

      In the end, that didn't work out that well for Palm. They had many thousands of apps and are now effectively history even though they had the advantage of being open as well. An app store may have helped them, but in the end I don't think that's why they're not the most popular phone platform.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jparker ( 105202 )

        Really? Palm had an App Store? I had a Palm V, VII, and a first-gen Treo, and I never saw a centralized place to buy a wide variety of apps. There were a few, scattered sites that each sold their own product, and a few boxes (mostly office-lite, Tetris, and Bejeweled) at the big box stores, but that was all I ever ran across.

        Palm may have had thousands of apps, but without a centralized distribution mechanism, an individual user only ever saw a tiny fraction of those. Where they did find them, sure, a Palm

  • by cellis ( 1564793 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:10AM (#29105993)
    I live in Japan (and own an iphone but that's moot for this discussion). Softbank has done a few things lately that probably had quite a bit to do with this. They have been for months running a hugely successful ad campaign with a little white Dog as the mascot, I don't pay enough attention to tell his name or the details but I guarantee you my wife and mother-in-law could (and just about any trend oriented female or male on the street could). They also recently signed SMAP and began running commercials featuring them a week or so ago. If you aren't aware of just how unbelievably huge SMAP is here I most likely can't explain it, explaining a "boy band" who are now in their 30s would probably be hard enough haha. I had never seen anything like it personally coming from the US, they are very very popular here amongst nearly all types of people and it shows Softbank is the king of advertising in the phone market over here.

    Secondly, they recently dropped the price way down on the iphones both on the ownership fees and the monthly packet plans. I'm not fully aware of the details as I got my iphone before the drop (dammit!) but if you go past a Softbank store FREE IPHONE is plastered all over the place. The free ones are the old model but the 3Gs is fairly cheap too. Softbank is known to do some fairly shady fee structures so some customers are wary of them, but hey you can't beat free as a marketing tool to get customers into the store. Also iphone was known as a luxury here and some people probably see this price drop as a chance to get one finally.

    Oh and they also finally came out with a one-seg video adapter for the iphone which many Japanese want. (Digital Broadcast TV on your phone.)

    So yeah, in summary, new gadget (always works in Japan) + super hot marketing campaigns + cheap prices + finally getting the iphone to keep up with the Joneses tech wise, win win for Softbank and I'm not really surprised as a casual observer of the "keitai" market that iphone 3Gs is #1 here (this month).
  • It's not that hard to be big in Japan.
  • by KNicolson ( 147698 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:17AM (#29106083) Homepage

    The company does not survey the carrier's own shops, which are major players in the Japanese cellphone market. In addition, number three, the Panasonic 830P is an almost one year old phone (last year's winter model) since superceded by two newer Panasonic phones, and the Casio W63CA is similarly an ancient (in Japanese terms) model.

    Thus, to anyone who knows about the Japanese mobile phone market (such as anyone who reads my blog []) the survey results are obviously biased towards bulk retailers and the people who frequent them rather than to the average Taro who frequents the carrier's own store on the High Street.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN