updated 09:55 pm EST, Fri November 26, 2010
DoCoMo sells Galaxy S with Vader in iPhone nation
Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo has been scaling up its attempts to lure smartphone buyers in recent days with a new TV ad (below) to lure users to the Samsung Galaxy S. The reported ad, the expansion of a campaign that started in the summer, has Darth Vader standing as a personification of the Android phone. His presence gives Galaxy S owners the power to do anything, the WSJ-spotted ad suggests.
The minute-long promo is unique both in its sense of humor but for the attempt to push a Korean-made phone in a country typically averse to foreign-made phones. While smartphones have obtained some influence on the Japanese market, the area typically reverts to traditional "feature" phones from Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp and other domestic manufacturers. Many of these have Japan-specific extras such as 1Seg over-the-air TV tuning and FeliCa for near-field wireless payment that often aren't included in foreign models.
DoCoMo's version of the Galaxy S, launched October 28, also faces an uphill battle versus the iPhone in the country. Samsung had a relatively strong launch but didn't claim the absolute top sales spot, having been bracketed in its second place spot by the two existing iPhone 4 models. Apple has only a small portion of the total phone market in Japan, but it commands two thirds of smartphone sales and is single-handedly credited with giving its carrier SoftBank a faster growth rate than the once institutional DoCoMo could manage. The American phone designer has made up for a lack of local features by allowing peripherals such as a wireless 1Seg tuner.
Android is the next-closest smartphone platform in Japan courtesy of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 getting modest success before the Galaxy S arrived. Doubts exist as to whether it will enjoy the same growth that the platform did in the US. The iPhone has kept the iconic status among younger users that it partly lost in the US, and Apple may look to other networks beyond SoftBank. A now near-certain CDMA iPhone could come to the second-largest carrier in Japan, KDDI. Apple is similarly rumored to be readying an NFC-ready iPhone 5 that could theoretically support FeliCa.
The current iPhone 4 may even reach DoCoMo relatively quickly, as FCC testing showed that it had a DoCoMo-ready 800MHz 3G band that has simply gone unmentioned by Apple in official marketing.