Apple snags top spot in Japan's mobile phone market for first time in 2012

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According to new findings published on Tuesday, Apple rode strong demand of its new iPhone 5 to sell more handsets in Japan than any other manufacturer during the full 2012 calendar year, a first for the Cupertino, Calif., company.

Data from Counterpoint Research shows that by the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple's iPhone accounted for 16 percent of the entire Japanese mobile phone market, feature phones included, which helped the company take an annual share of 15 percent for the year. As noted by The Next Web, Counterpoint's study accounted for all handsets, both smartphones and feature phones.

The report found traditional top-sellers Sharp and Fujitsu behind Apple for the first time, with each taking a 14 percent share of the market. Sharp, which has been battling financial difficulties over the past quarters, had previously been Japan's number one cell phone manufacturer for six years running.

Contributing to Apple's success was heavy promotion of the iPhone 5 from carriers Softbank and KDDI in an attempt to set themselves apart from market-leading telecom DoCoMo, the firm said. The campaign yielded interesting results, as DoCoMo countered the iPhone with foreign smartphone offerings. By the end of the fourth quarter, Apple, Samsung and LG took up half of the market, while Chinese brands also saw booming sales.

Counterpoint's analysts had their own take on Japan's mobile market:

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.

It was reported in December that DoCoMo blamed the iPhone for its biggest ever monthly loss of subscribers. Over the same period, Apple partner carriers Softbank and KDDI saw massive month-to-month gains.

During Apple quarterly conference call for the first fiscal quarter of 2013, it was announced that the company sold some 47.8 million iPhones worldwide during the three months ending in December, a 29 percent increase from the same period in 2011.