New figures from the MM Research Institute in Tokyo show Japan has overtaken America as Apple’s largest market for the iPhone. At the end of September, the iPhone claimed a 37 percent share to become the country’s biggest selling smartphone, which sees it edge ahead of America’s 36 percent, a figure provided by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
An analyst for BCN Inc. told the Wall Street Journal the attention lavished on the Apple brand in Japan is, “Overwhelming,” and that buying decisions aren’t based on specifications or rationale, but are “About owning an iPhone.” The report says the iPhone is being marketed heavily there, and the subsidies provided by networks are high, meaning it’s available to more people. Japan’s biggest network, NTT DoCoMo, began selling the iPhone in September, and it has since been joined by KDDI and SoftBank, all of whom provide the iPhone 5S free of charge to customers signing a contract.
Japan is known by brands from outside the country for being a tough market to crack, regardless of if it’s a consumer electronics product or not. It still happens though, but a degree of luck can help. Nestle’s KitKat – which has recently gained some tech cred of its own – has done particularly well in Japan, thanks to the similarity to the good luck phrase “Kitto Katsu,” which apparently means “surely win.”
The WSJ’s article also points out the obsession with the iPhone may also have something to do with Samsung’s lack of success in Japan. We’re used to hearing Samsung’s name at the top of mobile lists, but t’s in fourth place behind Apple, Sony, and Sharp. It’s added that Apple’s profit margin in Japan is around 50 percent, compared with 35 percent elsewhere, so we doubt it’s going to stop pushing the iPhone there anytime soon.