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Japanese smartphone buyers prefer Apple's anticipated 5.5" 'iPhone 6,' data shows

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Consumers in Japan — now one of Apple's most important markets — are excited by the prospect of a larger iPhone and the increased screen size could be a key driver of sales to new customers in the Asian nation, according to new survey data released this week.

Japanese market research firm MMD spoke to some 3,000 mobile phone users in the month of August —  1,000 each from major carriers Docomo, au, and SoftBank. Of those, 35.7 percent indicated that they intend to purchase Apples's next-generation handset.

Some 33.3 percent of prospective iPhone 6 buyers said that they were interested in the device because it was time to upgrade their smartphone. 29.9 percent, meanwhile, said that the rumored display size increase piqued their interest.

More than 40 percent of those who want a larger-screened iPhone are interested in the rumored 5.5-inch model, while just 20 percent see the 4.7-inch variant as ideal.

Japanese consumers have wholeheartedly embraced the iPhone since its launch, with the device owning over half of the smartphone market that was previously dominated by domestic players like Sharp and Sony. Perhaps even more impressively, the iPhone accounts for more than one out of every three mobile phone shipments in a country where so-called "feature phones," which cost significantly less than smartphones, continue to be top sellers.

Apple's Japanese success comes despite initial skepticism on the part of industry watchers, who believed the Silicon Valley company would not be able to compete with Japanese handsets that offered features like television reception and touch-based mobile payments.