updated 10:45 pm EST, Thu February 24, 2011
comScore has Android up in Japan but behind iPhone
Android is catching up to the iPhone in Japan but is much further back, new data from comScore found on Thursday. Google's platform exploded over the last half of 2010 and jumped from just 435,000 users in June to almost 2.2 million at the end of that year. The gap with Apple was noticeably wider than it was in the US, however, as Apple still grew from about 2.6 million Japanese owners just at the cusp of the iPhone 4 launch to 3.8 million six months later.
The rise wasn't pinned on a particular cause but was likely attributable to local carriers starting to treat Android as a first-class platform. Sony Ericsson had some modest success with the Xperia X10, but most of the kick may have come from the Samsung Galaxy S. Japan's historical aversion to foreign phones has mostly been overcome and has seen the leading carrier, NTT DoCoMo, launch an ad blitz that has used Darth Vader to drive sales.
Long-term prospects for Android aren't as promising as they are in the usually more Android-frienldy US market. The Galaxy S has occasionally pipped individual iPhone 4 capacities for the top cellphone spot in Japanese sales figures, but it has never had an unambiguous lead over both. Apple has also been steadily gaining share. As of the end of 2010, it had entered the top five and passed companies like Hitachi that have often enjoyed a safe position. The iPhone's potential has mostly been limited by a deal limited to third-largest carrier SoftBank and not either NTT DoCoMo or KDDI.
Smartphones are still relatively new to Japan, which still leans heavily on feature-laden but non-smart clamshell phones, but have grown rapidly even just in the fall. The comScore study could only cover the last three months of 2010 for the relative smartphone share but saw it grow 33.5 percent just over that period to where seven million Japanese, or 6.9 percent, are using a smartphone.