Smartphone users will account for 33% of mobile phone users in 2012
Mobile phones are incredibly widespread in Japan, but penetration and growth have leveled off as the number of users has steadily climbed above 100 million. eMarketer estimates that there will be 107 million mobile phone users in Japan at the end of 2012, accounting for 84% of the total population.
Meanwhile, smartphone ownership in Japan is jumping dramatically. eMarketer estimates that smartphone growth topped 180% in 2011, and expects 33% of mobile phone users to use a smartphone in 2012. According to a survey of mobile phone users from Nielsen’s local Japan affiliate, as of March 2012, 26% of mobile phone users in Japan used a smartphone as their primary device. Feature phones still dominated the market, though, with a 63% share, followed my multimedia phones at 11%.
Surprisingly, both smartphone and feature phone users in Japan were more likely to access emails via their device than send or receive text messages (SMS). One reason is that service providers, including SoftBank predecessor J-Phone and NTT Docomo, offered email services to feature phone users as early as 1999. Users presumably maintained the habit of checking email accounts on their mobile devices after they upgraded to smartphones.
Nielsen also found that smartphone users were significantly more likely than other mobile users to access social networks, at 55%, vs. 25% for multimedia phones and 15% for feature phones. In addition, smartphone applications and high-end cameras seem to have lead to an increased likelihood of users chatting via instant and video messages.
Expect smartphone users to dominate the mobile landscape in Japan in the near future. According to a May report from MM Research Institute, a local research firm in Japan, smartphones will account for three-quarters of all mobile phone shipments by fiscal year 2013, and 81.9% by fiscal year 2015. All those smartphone shipments add up when it comes to end-users. By 2016, eMarketer forecasts smartphone users to account for 83% of mobile phone users in Japan and to total 92 million.
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