Apple is the No.1 handset maker in Japan now

Counterpoint Research releases new data of the Handset / Smartphone market. In the recent Country Market Share Report for Q4 2012, we find that Apple’s iPhone shipments take over the Japanese market.

– Apple took 16% market share in the fourth quarter of 2012 and 15% for the full year of 2012 reaching the No.1 spot for the first time in annual terms. It has been No.1 since November of last year.

– Other foreign brands such as Samsung and LG also increased share in Q4 and the combined share exceeded 50% for the first time in Japan’s history. Japan is no longer a Galapagos Island as global brands start to dominate.

In this report it shows that Apple has struck gold in the Japanese market as its share reached 16% in Q4 and 15% for the full year of 2012. Traditional local champions Sharp and Fujitsu each took 14% of the market in 2012.Apple ended Sharp’s 6 year reign last year as it took the crown. Apple had already temporarily displaced Sharp in Q4 2011 but Sharp soon took back the No. 1 spot for the first half of 2012. For the full year of 2012 it was a close call between the three top players in Japan but Apple rose to supremacy at last.

In 2012 both Softbank and KDDI heavily promoted the new iPhone 5 to challenge Docomo. This move sparked a battle of smartphones in which Docomo fought back with various new smartphone models, the majority of which were also foreign branded. So yet again it’s operator competition that has catalyzed the iPhone’s success – but in Japan at the expense of home grown players.

Japanese local brands had a long legacy of smart feature phones running operator friendly or handset vendor proprietary operating systems but it took a globally accredited operating system like Android to compete with iOS. Samsung, LG, HTC had a head start compared to Japanese brands and even Chinese brands like ZTE and Huawei were more adept at introducing Android equipped smartphones.

As a result in Q4 2012 foreign brands like and Apple, Samsung and LG took 50% of the handset market in Japan. Chinese Brands like Huawei saw sales jump three fold in a short period.

Our analysts comment that Japan was once considered to be like a Galapagos Island, an isolated terrain, in terms of mobile technology. It had its own unique digital cellular technology. It was far more advanced than any market in the world and it seemed nearly impossible for any foreign technology company to penetrate the market. Motorola had failed and Nokia had failed. The wave of smartphones has changed the situation now and it looks like the Japanese market is a market that can be transformed after all for better or worse.

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