updated 01:22 am EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
Follows deal with top carrier NTT DoCoMo in September
Less than nine months after finally signing the country's largest carrier, Apple is now selling one out of every three smartphones in Japan, according to shipment data from Japan-based MM Research Institute. Thanks to the deal with NTT DoCoMo, Apple now has more than 36 percent of the entire Japanese cellphone market, and is the only country in which Apple handily outsells the combined cellphone output of its rival Samsung.
Apple has been doing well in Japan for a while, but the recent jump in sales is largely credited to the DoCoMo deal. In the year-ago quarter, Apple has 25.5 percent share, and now commands 36.6 percent, an 11.1 percent boost that mostly happened in the last seven months (though the deal was signed in mid-September, the iPhone didn't debut on DoCoMo's site until shortly after the October debut of the iPhone 5s and 5c).
The pent-up demand for the iPhone on DoCoMo resulted in the iOS smartphone accounting for 61 percent of all phone sales (feature and smartphone) in its debut month. The carrier, which had been hesitant to sign on with Apple due to the latter's demands for guaranteed purchases, high subsidies and other carrier policies, finally admitted that it was losing subscribers to rivals and agreed to a deal after the iPhone hit 25 percent share with only one of the smaller naional carriers.
If the trend continues, Apple could top its 2013 sales to Japan by as much as 100 percent over the course of 2014, which would mean selling some 30 million iPhones in Japan. Apple's 36.6 percent share dwarfs its rivals, which include Sharp with 13 percent (5.14 million phones shipped) and Sony with 12.3 percent (4.8 million units shipped). Samsung, by comparison, is in sixth place with just 5.7 percent share.
Part of Apple's momentum in Japan stems from a stunning holiday quarter in 2013, which the iPhone achieved 68.7 percent of sales as the DoCoMo deal coincided with the start of fourth-quarter buying. Overall, Apple sales generally grew 26 percent in Japan, reaching $4 billion in the most recent quarter.