Apple’s iPhone 3G shows strong sales around globe – except in Japan

“Two months after its launch, the latest version of Apple Inc.’s iPhone is showing strong sales around the world — except in Japan,” Yukari Iwatani Kane reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Apple’s partnership with Japan’s third-largest mobile operator, Softbank Corp., to sell the iPhone 3G certainly created a buzz. Like elsewhere, Japanese consumers lined up at stores in advance of the phone’s release on July 11, and many locations sold out almost immediately. But now analysts estimate that demand in Japan has fallen to a third of what it was initially and analysts are now expecting fewer iPhone sales. There is no supply shortage: The device is readily available in Apple and Softbank stores and other outlets,” Kane reports.

“According to market-research firm MM Research Institute, Apple sold about 200,000 phones in Japan in the first two months. Since then, however, demand has been falling steadily, and analysts now widely believe sales are unlikely to reach a total of 500,000 units. That is half the one million units that they previously thought Apple could sell. One big challenge is that Japanese users already have access to some of the most advanced mobile-phone technologies in the world. Models currently sold by Japanese cellphone makers typically contain a high-end color display, digital TV-viewing capability, satellite navigation service, music player and digital camera. Many models also include chips that let owners use their phones as debit cards or train passes. Noriko Tanaka, a 34-year-old Softbank customer in Tokyo, said she likes the iPhone’s touch screen, but would prefer a phone with digital television capability,” Kane reports.

“One iPhone feature that is unique even to Japanese users is the App Store, Apple’s online clearinghouse for software, such as games and reference guides. The App Store is popular among U.S. users, but hasn’t taken hold as much in Japan, where consumers tend to be more cautious about making purchases online,” Kane reports.

Full article here.

What we have here is, a failure to communicate.

Apple needs to create or add more iPhone expository ads and run them with high frequency in Japan; ads that explain the app store, demonstrate 3rd-party apps, and show off what the iPhone, and only the iPhone, can really do.


  1. NO – this is NOT a failure to communicate. The article is very clear and completely to the point: Japanese consumers are used to phones that can do a lot an iPhone as yet cannot. And these capabilities are very important to their lifestyle.
    And yes, there’s also things an iPhone can do even japanese phones can’t. And that should be communicated. But in the end it comes down to the fact that the iPhone and the Appstore should mature. Digital TV on an iPhone, why not? Bring it on.

  2. @pastrychef

    yeah until someone steals your phone and purchases a new car or a few new iphones to sell on ebay by the time you have a chance to get to another phone and cancel all your card.

    @Lazy European
    “high-end color display, digital TV-viewing capability, satellite navigation service, music player and digital camera. “

    So the iphone cant watch TV, otherwise it can do the rest of those… So watching TV on the phone is important to their lifestyle…..
    Only importance I see is using the chip as a credit card which has many pros and many many cons.

  3. Japan is so far ahead of the rest of the world as far as incorporating technology into their daily lives that we should be embarrassed. Phones as debit cards & train passes? That’s a brilliant idea that will take the U.S. 20 years to adopt.

  4. “Phones as debit cards & train passes” – 2 year old technology here. If the additional technology features found on most phones here were offered in the iPhone, it would help considerably. That and multi-colored iPhones ala iPod Nano. Japanese love their distinct phones.

  5. I’m with Tony – the USA is soooo backwards in so many technologies – mobile telephone and television being the most egregious. In all fairness to the US, it is because many of the technologies were developed here, and so we were stuck with early standards, while the rest of the world waited for better standards to be developed and implemented.

    Having been to Asia (but not Japan), I have seen what they use and expect, and it’s not available here in the US. Blame the carriers (carrion?) in part. Also the geographic size and spread of the US creates problems in coverage (iPhone 3G & AT&T;, anyone?).

    So not a failure to communicate – Apple did not deliver what Japanese consumers already have and use daily. New features like the App store are great, but without the other features, no sale.

  6. @tony

    You are absolutely correct. As I’ve stated before, Apple could use some partners (licensees?) to better advance the platform and to better localize the products.

  7. Japan has a low-crime society, so ‘features’ like buying
    tickets with a phone may work.
    Japan is also distinct in its habits – nowhere else is quite like Japan.
    If the iPhone has sold decent numbers there – thats fine. This analyst isnt being analytical – presumably only Japanese phones with special features do really well there, but the market is not big enough to make a special Japanese ohone, so you take what sales you can.

    Looking for a local negative in a VERY positive Worldwide story is my take on this.

  8. Tony,

    You wonder why the US is behind technologically?
    All of it goes into weapons.

    And there are people in the US that think Jesus rode on dinosaurs.

    NO amount of technology will solve that. Except maybe using some of those advanced weapon systems to “clear up” the problem.

  9. You guys are all wrong. Japan is behind because they don’t realise the superior products Apple produce.

    Why watch TV on a phone when you can purchase content from iTunes, why bother with an inferior service??????

    Japan doesn’t like American technology and it’ll end up costing them big when Apple rules the world 😀

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