With the release of Apple’s revolutionary iPhone in Japan still a way off, it is useful to look at the latest developments that may influence how the iPhone will fare in Japan.
One must-have for the USA market is of course Bluetooth support, as these wireless earphone and microphone combinations are an essential part of any mobile warrior’s gear. However, in Japan these devices are rarely if ever seen; indeed, a recent survey conducted by the online polling organisation Cross Marketing Inc into Bluetooth usage showed that just over a third had more than just a passing knowledge of the name, and indeed over two in five hadn’t even heard of it. Looking into the numbers in more detail, it was revealed that only one person from the original sample of 300 people actually owned a Bluetooth wireless earpiece! Therefore, if Apple are looking for space to fit the essential 3G support for their iPhone in Japan, then ditching the Bluetooth circuitry is a no-brainer.
In nearby South Korea, also waiting for Apple’s iPhone, in a recent survey of 590 South Korean CEOs conducted by the Samsung Ecomonic Research Institute, they chose from amongst the list of devices included in Time Magazine’s “Inventions of 2007” report Apple’s iPhone as the most inspirational device, indicating that in South Korea, as in Japan, there is a great deal of expections for this device. Having said that, the rest of the Time Magazine inventions were rather samey, with the only other device catching my eye being a lightweight remote-control FlyTech Dragonfly ornithopter.
With a new verion of the iPhone firmware comes a new version of the Jailbreak software that frees the iPhone from the tether to AT&T as the carrier. According to various analyses of Apple’s financial performance, perhaps as many as 20% of all iPhones are used on unauthorised networks. But what of Japan? Apart from the fact that there is less of a culture for this sort of thing, Japan’s mobile phones are not interchangeable between networks, so jailbreaking a phone does not enable one to pick and choose carriers. If the eventual carrier of the iPhone puts a premium on a contract, it may be possible to jailbreak and use a SIM card tied to a cheaper contract with the same carrier. However, the overall prospect for Apple’s iPhone in Japan is that basically almost all iPhones will be used according to Apple wishes.
Finally, two new colours for the iPhone have been announced, namely pink and purple, both targeted at the fashion-conscious female market segment, but unfortunately these are not official paint jobs, but promotional third-party models. However, for Apple’s iPhone in Japan, such colour schemes are a necessity as addressing the young female market (who often live at home so have money to burn on fashion accessories) is one of the keys to success in the Japan cellphone marketplace
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.