Japan's Love Affair with the Feature Phone Is Fading - eMarketer
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Japan's Love Affair with the Feature Phone Is Fading

Shipments of the basic devices plummet

June 20, 2017 | Mobile

Japan was once the rare example of an industrialized country that still had a strong feature phone user base. Feature phones have hung on thanks to advanced versions of the devices that have many of the same characteristics of smartphones. But the lingering affection for feature phones seems to be over.

According to new figures from International Data Corporation (IDC), shipments of smartphones in Japan hit 8.5 million in the first quarter of the year, while feature phone shipments totaled 300,000.

In fact, the number of feature phone shipments in the country plummeted. At the same time, the number of smartphones shipped increased by a little more than 30%.

Feature Phone vs. Smartphone Shipments in Japan, Q1 2016 & Q1 2017 (millions)

eMarketer predicts smartphone users will account for 55.1% of total mobile phone users in Japan this year, and expects that percentage to jump to 60% by 2020.

Data from MM Research Institute (MMRI) also aligns with IDC’s findings. The research firm found that 29.4 million smartphones were shipped in Japan in 2016, compared with just 6.6 million feature phones.

So who’s gaining from the uptake of smartphones in Japan? The short answer is Apple. IDC found that iPhones accounted for half of smartphones shipped in the country in Q1 2017.

But interestingly, nationalism seems to have a significant impact on Japan’s smartphone sector. The next four largest smartphone manufacturers as measured by shipment share by IDC were all domestic companies: Kyocera, Sharp, Sony and Fujitsu. Samsung, the South Korea-based firm that’s also one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers, didn’t even crack the top five in the country.

Rahul Chadha

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