Japan’s most renowned business newspaper Nikkei recently released the result of a survey among Japanese consumers according to which 91% don’t want to buy an iPhone. Tokyo-based web research company iShare [JP] conducted the survey on June 5th and 6th.
The findings are not representative for a number of reasons. There were only 402 respondents, but Japan has a population of 128 million. They were asked after Softbank annnounced they will release the iPhone in Japan, but before the presentation of the 3G iPhone. The 3G version will launch in this country on July 11th. Also there is no detailed information on pricing and other important factors available yet.
Judging by my experience as a geek living in Japan, I can however think of 10 good reasons why the iPhone might have a hard time in this country’s cell phone culture:
1. No One-Seg digital TV tuner
2. No Felica (e-wallet) function
3. Weak camera
4. Only one panel color available
5. Display of cute emoticons, emoji, is difficult
6. Japanese cell phone contracts are long-term (2 years standard, almost no pre-paid) and expensive to terminate
6. A lot of Japanese already own an iPod Touch (launched in October 2007)
7. Japanese women with long fingernails will not buy it (and there are a lot of them)
8. High-school kids use cell phones mainly for emails using one thumb, a dialpad and a jog dial (ideal for Japanese character input)
9. Softbank will probably charge a lot of Yen for the handset itself, accessories, data plans etc.
10. Japan is the toughest cell phone market in the world
(high level of technical sophistication, critical customers, high innovation rate etc. )
Despite these factors, the iPhone has good chances of playing a good role in this country. Softbank and Apple will surely spend a lot of marketing money to make sure every Japanese will know about their new product. And people over here love Apple. So my guess is the iPhone will do OK, but not spectacularly well – we will see next month.