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iPhone tops smartphone sales in Japan for the first time

During the winter quarter, Apple's iPhone topped smartphone sales in Japan for the first time, with 26.6 percent market share.

According to a report by Mainichi Japan citing numbers published by IDC Japan, the launch of the iPhone 4S dramatically shifted sales numbers, sending first place Sharp into third place during the quarter with 15.7 percent share, and pushing the combined sales of Fujitsu-Toshiba into second place with 18.2 percent share.

Over the entire year, Sharp led sales with 20.1 percent share, followed by Fujitsu-Toshiba at 18.8 percent and Apple at 14.2 percent.

Fujitsu had been making mostly feature phones before announcing a joint venture with Toshiba in June 2010 to build smartphones based on Toshiba's existing Windows Mobile models.

Last fall, Toshiba announced the intent to bail out of the partnership this year, just after the joint venture delivered the "IS12T" phone running Windows Phone 7, which launched alongside the iPhone 4S on the more popular KDDI network, but failed to have the same impact.

Apple's blockbuster sales of iPhone 4S in Japan are particularly noteworthy because the company was still exclusively tied to Softbank, the third largest carrier in the country, throughout 2011. Also notable is that just three years ago, Brian X Chen created a story for Wired that portrayed Japan as "hating" the iPhone.

This year, Apple is reported to soon be expanding iPhone availability to KDDI, a CDMA carrier (like Verizon Wireless) in the process of deploying 4G LTE.

The Japanese market is important enough to Apple to make Japanese the first new language Siri has expanded to support in since the launch of iPhone 4S, a feature enhancement Apple's chief executive Tim Cook noted in presenting iOS 5.1.