The Crazy Phones In Japan That The iPhone Is Competing With

Japan phone girl

Apple’s iPhone is a lot bigger in Japan than many expected it would be, approaching two years of sales in the country.

The iPhone captured 72% of Japan’s small but growing smartphone market in the last year, according to Tokyo-based research firm MM Research Institute, via Bloomberg Businessweek. And sales are growing fast: Apple said on its most recent earnings call that last quarter’s iPhone sales in Japan grew 183% year-over-year.

Admittedly, that 72% market share stat is a bit of a stretch, because drawing the line between smartphones and “dumb” phones in Japan is a much different exercise than it is in the U.S.

Click here to go on a mobile phone shopping adventure in Tokyo and see what the iPhone is competing with →

While most Japanese phones aren’t technically considered smartphones because of their hardware design and software platform, they’re still much more advanced than what we consider “dumb” phones in the States. Many phones that aren’t considered smartphones are still used to run apps and watch video, even live TV. And Japan is much more advanced than the U.S. in fields like mobile payments.

So it’s not like the iPhone is totally taking over Japan.

But having just spent a week there, paying a lot of attention to what mobile phones people were using, we can affirm that Apple is having a good deal of success.

While the vast majority of Tokyo Subway riders we saw were still using flip-phone style devices — not categorized as smartphones in the MM Research stats — we did see plenty of iPhones.

But perhaps the best sign of the iPhone’s success in Japan could be coming at the expense of SoftBank, the country’s exclusive iPhone carrier. We heard from an iPhone user there that — like AT&T in the U.S. — SoftBank has been pounded by users’ demand for bandwidth, and is often unreliable.

We're in Akihabara, Tokyo's gadgets and gaming district.

You can find anything from camera shops to these electronic dictionaries.

But today we're looking at mobile phones at an electronics department store. Here's the cheap stuff.

Here's a close-up of those three from the middle of the last shot.

Mix and match your phone to the colour of your pastry, or something.

Jelly Beans!

Last time I visited there were a lot of pastels. Now it's bright colours.

Au by KDDI.

These ones appear to be for small kids.

Now we're getting into the multimedia phones, which don't come in as many colours.

These have big, colourful screens.

And now we're getting into smartphones. Here's an Android phone and above it, Windows Mobile.

Just days after Apple unveiled iPhone OS 4.0, they're already advertising it next to the phone. I assume this says this phone will be able to get the software update when it's released this summer.

Last time I was in this store three years ago, this wall was full of trinkets you can use as mobile phone jewelry. Now it's iPhone cases and accessories.

Here's some marketing material from SoftBank, one of the carriers.

Seems you can get a free toilet paper roll holder with some sort of purchase.

Bonus: Upstairs, here's a cool looking Flip cam competitor.

In this neighbourhood, you can buy anything from cameras to transistors. Here's a neat shop selling audio accessories under the train tracks. But that's it for today!

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