Google Becomes No. 1 Android Smartphone Brand in Japan in Q1 2023

  • Google also became the No. 2 brand in Japan’s overall smartphone market for the first time ever in Q1 2023.
  • In Q1 2023, Google’s global shipments grew 67% YoY driven by strong sales of the mid-range Pixel 6a and flagship Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
  • The recently launched Pixel 7a showed a 74% increase in sales during its first three weeks when compared to its predecessor.
  • Google’s Q1 2023 Japan shipments hit an all-time high share of 34% in the brand’s overall global shipments.
  • The withdrawal of many local brands from the Japanese smartphone market is expected to strengthen the dominance of US brands like Apple and Google

Google became the #1 Android brand in Japan’s smartphone market in Q1 2023, with its Pixel series smartphones beating the overall market downturn. This also made the brand #2 in the country’s overall smartphone market for the first time ever. Globally, Google’s smartphone shipments grew 67% YoY driven by strong sales of the mid-range Pixel 6a and flagship Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, which were launched in the second half of 2022. In Japan, the brand’s smartphone shipments increased nearly fivefold during the quarter to reach an all-time-high 34% share in the brand’s overall global shipments.

Pixel 7a sales surge driven by cost-effectiveness and expanded carrier partnerships

The recent launch of the Pixel 7a has seen a 74% increase in cumulative sales during its first three weeks when compared to its predecessor. This indicates a growing positive response to Pixel smartphones in the Japanese market. The main drivers of the Pixel 7a’s success are its upgraded Tensor G2 processor, camera performance and RAM. The Pixel 7a’s specifications are comparable to the flagship Pixel 7 series, but the device comes at a roughly 24% lower price. Furthermore, the Japanese market’s preference for smaller screen sizes has significantly influenced the strong sales of the Pixel 7a.

Unlike its predecessor, the Pixel 7a is available for sale through all three major carriers in Japan – SoftBank, AU and DOCOMO. The Pixel 6a was only available through SoftBank and AU. In Japan’s smartphone market, carrier partnerships have a substantial impact on sales. The Pixel 6a achieved impressive results, remaining the top-selling Android smartphone for seven consecutive months from September 2022 to March 2023. With the Pixel 7a’s improved specifications and the addition of major carrier DOCOMO, the model is expected to deliver even better performance compared to its predecessor.

Japan Smartphone Shipments Market Share by OEM, Q1 2023

Google’s Smartphone Shipments
Source: Counterpoint Market Monitor, 2023

Local brands’ withdrawal likely to sustain Google’s growth momentum

In Q1 2023, Google achieved its highest-ever market share in Japan at 9%, surpassing local brands such as Sharp and Sony to secure the second position after Apple, which has historically dominated the market with over 50% share. On the other hand, local brands have exerted significant influence in the Android camp. Therefore, Google’s performance in the Japanese market holds significant implications.

Moreover, news of the withdrawal of local brands such as Kyocera, FCNT and Balmuda from the smartphone market indicates that Tier-1 Japanese OEMs will be limited to only Sony. This is expected to strengthen the market dominance of US brands like Apple and Google in Japan. However, considering the maturity of the Japanese smartphone market, Google’s own shipment growth is expected to be modest. As a result, Google’s strategy for expanding its global market share through the Japanese market may have some limitations.

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