Apple faces challenges in bringing iPhone to Japan

Apple “is reportedly talking to Japan’s top tier telecom carriers about selling its popular multimedia phone for use on their networks. A report by The Wall Street Journal says Apple has approached NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest carrier, and Softbank, currently the No. 3 player,” Daniel Del’Re reports for,

“The move would take the iPhone to one of the world’s most tech savvy populations. Japanese consumers are avid gadget fans, especially when it comes to pricey multimedia cell phones… The challenge for Apple is to get Japanese consumers, who are used to fast mobile Internet connections, interested in a phone that operates on a slower 2G network,” Del’Re reports.

MacDailyNews Take: It would be a challenge unless Apple offers a 3G iPhone. Duh.

Del’Re continues, “In all four countries where the iPhone is available, consumers lined up outside of stores for hours — and in some cases, days — before of the product launch waiting to be one of the first to own the iPhone. Within hours of store openings, bloggers posted photos of eager shoppers making their purchase. Apple is clearly hoping that the same behavior plays out in Japan, where the company’s presence is still very small.”

Full article, Think Before You Click™, here.

Apple’s iPod currently dominates the Japanese portable media player market with 60% share. Characterizing Apple’s presence in Japan as “very small” — along with the inability to imagine a 3G iPhone coinciding with a Japan launch — leads us to severely question not only the quality of Del’Re’s “reporting,” but also his basic ability to reason. As both the imminent arrival of a 3G iPhone by mid-2008 and the iPod market share figures in Japan are widely known and have been widely reported, we can only conclude that Del’Re is either playing dumb or is, in fact, just plain dumb. Which is it, Danny? And, when can we expect better reporting about Apple Inc. from, if ever? Sometimes these Apple articles from are so slanted we can’t get through them without wearing hiking shoes.

“3G chipsets… are real power hogs. Most phones now have battery lives of 2 to 3 hours and that’s due to these very power-hungry 3G chipsets… [iPhone] has 8 hours of talktime life. That’s really important when you start to use the Internet and want to use the phone to listen to music. We’ve got to see the battery lives for 3G get back up into the 5+ hour range. Hopefully we’ll see that late next year.” – Apple CEO Steve Jobs introducing iPhone to the UK, September 18, 2007.


  1. Japanese phones use a different system than here… and are not compatible with systems here. Docomo uses W-CDMA and i-mode for their internet. Apple would probably have to build i-mode capability into Safari… though I don’t see that as a problem. Apple would have to bake in 3g to be a serious contender.

    The Japanese are used to Vertical integration in Companies, so Apple is a good fit.

  2. Someone should fire the research department who fact-checked this article.

    None of the Japanese cellular companies use GSM, or have 2G networks. Customers don’t need to adapt to 2G speeds, because there is no network that offers 2G speeds in Japan.

  3. While I normally enjoy very much the MDN take, this time around, I have to say, they’re not quite consistent. Apple NEVER announced the development of a 3G device. At this point, the 3G (2nd gen) iPhone is nothing but rumour – static noise in the blogosphere. In all fairness, there are some respected analysts that have contributed to this noise, but when one reports on these matters, it would be foolish to base that report on rumours, rather than facts. In some other MDN takes, we could easily see admonishment for referring to rumours (remember ‘whisper’ number of last summer?). Also, it could be argued that iPod’s 60% is rather small RELATIVE presence in Japan, compared to the US, or Europe, where it hovers around 80% or so (if I remember correctly, although it’s a moving target).

    We love coming to this site for, among other things, sheer enthusiasm about our favourite company. On occasion, thought, that enthusiasm gets some of us carried away just a bit.

  4. What I don’t really understand is this: ignoring the ramblings of anti-mac moronic trolls, the main criticism of iphone seems to focus on 2.5G versus 3G.

    There’s no doubting my support for Apple or my lusting after an iPhone. But I will never buy one so long as it’s tied to a particular carrier. I travel internationally a lot. Roaming charges are insane and so, in my opinion, was that Apple policy.

    And the lack of a removable battery is Serious Mistake number 2.

    Why is there not a torrent of comment on these points, from disappointed fans? I don’t get it.

  5. I`ve been saving for my the iPhone since the beginning of the year when it was announced. I`ve got over 50,000 yen saved and burning a hole in my piggy bank. I just hope when it finally arrives here the service plan isn`t a killer. My banker (read; Wife) is a real scrooge when it comes to cell phone bills and technology.
    May would be a gret time to release the iPhone in Japan…. it`s my birthday.

  6. Dude,

    Because the iPhone rocks the house. You wouldn’t know because you don’t own one. But if you did, you’d know that 2.5G is pretty freaking adequate for the great email, maps, stocks and weather software that iPhone has. And internet in a pinch ain’t all that bad, neither. Nope, not bad at all.

    I could care less about the battery deal, too, by the way. First off, the phone freaking runs all day long and actually for several days running if I’m not making many calls, so the number of charges on the thing are racking up very slowly. Second off, the battery power is so strong that even at half life or third life it’d still be about equal to any other phone I’ve owned.

    I’d say stop looking for reasons not to buy the best phone in the world and give it a chance on its own merits. They are many, varied, splendid, and far and away greater in number than anything else going anywhere in the mobile phone space.

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