With Apple’s iPhone due to launch soon in Japan, and much hot air on the blogs and in the press on why the iPhone will or will not be a hit in Japan, it is timely to take a look at what aspects of Apple’s iPhone will make it a success in Japan, that country where multi-function, multi-feature cell phones are the norm, and paying the equivalent of $500 dollars per phone is not unusual.
1. Japan loves the iPod! Numerous surveys have shown that Japanese consumers have embraced the foreign music player, with Apple’s iPod outselling the local Japanese competition by a wide margin. Existing iPod owners in Japan have shown themselves keen to get their hands upon Apple’s new iPhone when it launches in Japan; desire for the iPod Touch too shows how strong the Apple brand is in Japan.
2. It isn’t that expensive. The new 905i range of NTT DoCoMo cell phones launched recently, but even with an extremely closed design (there is little of the unlocking of cell phones that is seen in the West) people love them and are prepared to shell out huge sums of money every year for just an evolutionary device. Apple’s iPhone will be revolutionary in Japan, and with a price point likely similar to existing phones, sticker shock will not be a major issue in Japan.
3. It’s cool. Japan loves cool too! Apple’s iPhone has a certain something that will appeal to Japanese eyes, and the accessorizing possibilities for the device are huge. The back of the device provides a canvas for stick-on jewels or customized skins for the Japanese to personalize their iPhones, and holders provide another add-on market that will attract many customers. Similarly, skinning the iPhone’s user interface with Hello Kitty or other cute wallpaper and icons will be a popular feature.
4. Safari will allow easier SNS and blog access: A good fraction of Japanese internet users use their mobile phones are their primary access device, and with Apple’s iPhone providing the average Japanese consumer with a high-quality fully-featured browser (Safari), the mobile Japanese bloggers and SNSers will have a great tool to keep in touch with their social circle.
5. It’s intuitive. The user interface needs little explanation, so the perception of Apple’s iPhone being an English-language phone thus scaring off Japanese users will be low. Other foreign phones have failed to make an impact in Japan, but Apple’s iPhone will buck this trend. Anyone can pick it up and without needing to refer to a telephone directory-sized instruction manual, they can be up and running with the Apple iPhone in a matter of minutes.
Given these factors above, it is little wonder that in Japan, Apple’s iPhone is destined to be as much of a success as it was in the United States.
Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson researches Japanese surveys and opinion polls on his blog, covering topics as diverse as Apple’s iPhone and Japanese emoticons, with most of the material exclusively translated and provided for free.