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There are so many things going on why it is difficult for a foreign smartphone maker to struggle in Japan: the complicated regulatory structure, popular support for features unseen in phones outside Japan (wireless charging, for instance), and the Japanese’ love for the clamshell phones.

But Apple has been chewing its way into the Rising Sun’s pie, as evident last March 2012 when it was reported the iPhone 4S was the country’s top-selling smartphone model. At that time, however, Sharp and Fujitsu-Toshiba remained the top smartphone brands, with Apple relegated to third place.

That’s no longer the case. A report from Counterpoint Research declared Apple as the #1 smartphone brand in Japan, taking a 16-percent market share during the last quarter of 2012 and 15 percent throughout last year. This is the first time after six years that Sharp was displaced from its top position, tying with Fujitsu for the runner-up slot at 14 percent in 2012.

Other foreign phone companies are making a dent in the country that Counterpoint Research described as the “Galapagos Island” of mobile technology. The likes of Samsung and LG also increased their shares during the Q4 of 2012 and the combined market share of all foreign smartphone companies exceeded 50 percent for the first time in Japan’s history.

Apple’s new-found dominance in Japan is largely due to its domestic carriers Softbank and KDDI, both of which are offering the iPhone 5. DoCoMo, Japan’s leading telecom operator, still does not carry the device. Although DoCoMo tried to fight the iPhone with its array of smartphones, its president has said they are willing to include the iPhone to their lineup if they can reach an agreement with Apple.

Source: Counterpoint Research, via TechCrunch

 
 

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