Study suggests most of Japan not bonkers over iPhone

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The Japanese aren't lusting over iPhone to the same degree as Americans and fellow Europeans across the pond, according to a local study commissioned shortly after regional wireless carrier SoftBank Mobile said it would offer the Apple handset later this year.

The survey, conducted by iShare over a relatively small sample size of 402 Japanese wireless subscribers, found that as of earlier this month slightly more than 91 percent held no plans to purchase one of the updated touch-screen handsets following its announcement.

For SoftBank, the good news is that more than half of the respondents who said they planned to purchase the new iPhone are currently subscribers of a rival carrier's service and would need to make the jump to legitimately obtain the device. Overall, 39.8 percent of participants in the study said they were enrolled with NTT DoCoMo, 26.9 percent with KDDI's "au," 22.9 percent with SoftBank, and another 6.5 percent with other providers such as Willcom and Emobile.

Of particular concern to Japanese mobile users was the ability to replace the battery in their cell phones. Approximately 77 percent said they'd "prefer replaceable batteries," while the remainder said they didn't care if the battery is replaceable or not. However, 88 percent of those people who had replaced a battery in one of their previous phones said they'd prefer to have the same option going forward.

iShare noted in its report that the lack of a replaceable battery in the iPhone could be a deal breaker in Japan. It also noted that intent on the part of Japanese consumers to buy one of the Apple handsets appears to have dropped considerably between July 2007 and today.

Those sentiments on the part of Japanese consumers may have changed in recent weeks, however, given that iShare conducted its survey from June 5th through the 6th — shortly after SoftBank announced plans to carry the handset locally, but before the phone's $199 maximum entry-level cost was announced. That's likely half the price most consumers had grown to expect.

For Apple, the stakes surrounding its iPhone 3G launch in Japan and other international regions are extremely high. The Cupertino-based company has made a considerable wager in effectively 'subsidizing' the cost of each unit, or sacrificing revenues estimated at around $200. The company hopes to make up for a lack of shared revenues over an extended period of time through sales of high margin services and software to an incrementally larger user base.

In a report issued Wednesday, investment bank Morgan Stanley said they like the company's odds and expected iPhone sales to more than double from 12.9 million units in 2008 to approximately 27 million units next year. Should one out of every 2 iPhone owners buy one application from the company's App Store at $9.99 each year, and 8.5 percent also sign up for its MobileMe service, it would help drive Apple's revenues in excess of $42 billion, the firm said.

However, should Apple continue to see sales of Macs rise while selling 30 million iPhones, two apps to each user, and MobileMe to 30 percent of iPhone customers, 2009 revenues could surge to nearly $48 billion.