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The Japanese iPhone Failure Myth

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 06 Iphone-World-Expansion
Daniel Eran Dilger
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the iPhone has completely flopped in Japan due to high prices and consumer apathy. This story has been widely syndicated, but its basis is questionable and its logic is strained. Here’s a look at why.
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After documenting the wild excitement that met the iPhone at launch, Yukari Iwatani Kane, writing for the Journal, noted that he didn’t have access to actual sales numbers from Apple or Softbank, the iPhone’s sole mobile partner in Japan.

Instead, Kane cited a single market research firm, MM Research Institute, as saying that the iPhone 3G sold 200,000 units in its first two months and that demand has “been falling steadily” since.

The article then mentioned unnamed analysts who “widely believe sales are unlikely to reach a total of 500,000 units. That is half the one million units that they previously thought Apple could sell.”

Apple’s Latest iPhone Sees Slow Japan Sales – WSJ.com

A Million Units Expected at Launch… Hmm.

If that line sounds familiar, it is probably because The Street insisted the exact same thing last year at the original launch of the iPhone in the US. Apple sold 270,000 phones on the launch weekend, but Scott Moritz printed a story that announced, “iPhone missed a 1 million unit sales target and rivals are rejoicing.”

That was a lie. Apple didn’t even have a million iPhones in stock over the first several days of the original launch, so it couldn’t have planned to sell a million iPhones on opening weekend even if it had a million customers to service. In reality, actual expectations were far lower, and no rivals were rejoicing about the iPhone’s big launch.

Bloomber’s Connie Guglielmo had reported before the launch that “Apple may sell as many as 200,000 iPhones in the product’s first two days on the market this week and as many as 3 million in the second half of the year, according to the most optimistic analyst estimates.” Apple not only sold 270,000 in the first two days, but actually went on to sell nearly four million units by the end of 2007.

Unraveling Anti-Apple Panic: the iPhone Launch Success

Where Do the Japanese iPhone Numbers Come From?

According to Andrew Sheppard, a reader in Japan, “MM Research Institute’s website does not suggest it has any definite figures for iPhone sales, only that it conducts an annual survey of mobile phone sales in Japan.” The Journal had to base its article on that figure because Softbank only “said the iPhone continues to be popular, but declined to provide details.”

If Apple actually sold 200,000 iPhones over the first two months, that would represent 2.4% of the Japanese smartphone market with sales of 50 million phones annually. The Journal reported that Nokia has less than 1% share in Japan, and that the market leader was Sharp, which still only had a 24% share.

Did “analysts” really believe Apple should have sold a million units in those first two months? Two months would amount to around 8.2 million smartphones for Japan in total, making a million iPhones 12% of the country’s sales, despite the fact that only one provider was offering the iPhone.

In contrast, at the end of August just two weeks before the Journal story, The Australian reported, “Gerhard Fasol, of telecoms consultancy Eurotechnology Japan, estimates they [Softbank] shifted between 75,000 and 125,000 units in July. At that rate, he thinks 2008 sales could total between 645,000 and 1 million.” So rather than being a failure, iPhone sales appear to be right in line with actual expectations.

Apple iPhone is having success in Japan against local internet mobiles | The Australian

Softbank’s Hard Sell.

Last month, Softbank was reported to be leader in new subscriptions, grabbing more than half of the country’s new activations during July. A company representative said at the time, “We believe our large net growth was an iPhone effect.”

The Journal’s widely publicized representation of the Japanese market cited an MM Research analyst as saying, “The iPhone is a difficult phone to use for the Japanese market because there are so many features it doesn’t have.” The article also insisted that “Japanese consumers have also shied away from the phone because of its high price,” but then related that the 16GB iPhone, selling for the equivalent of $320 US, is only $21 more than the $299 iPhone 3G here in the US.

Is this WSJ article really worthy of being the seminal reporting work on the iPhone in Japan? The story even managed to downplay the iPhone App Store by dismissively saying it “hasn’t taken hold as much in Japan, where consumers tend to be more cautious about making purchases online.” Kane offered no factual basis for this claim either.

iPhone Affects KDDI’s Net Subscription Growth
AppleInsider | iPhone 3G rocks Japanese smartphone market

Complex Phone Deals

With the Japanese market saturated in mobile phones, competing mobile companies try to lock users into long term contracts just as in the US. Our reader in Japan notes, “Softbank is trying to lead the industry in Japan away from the model of ‘get a ‘free’ mobile phone, pay huge phone bills,’ to one of ‘pay for a mobile phone, pay reasonable phone bills,’ so Softbank is not offering ‘subsidized’ iPhone pricing.”

Instead, the company has users pay for their phone in installments over the two year contract. “A regular Softbank mobile phone,” the source notes, “including the granny-phone but excluding most of those mobile TVs, will cost about $12.50 for the phone and $12.50 per month” for service.

In shopping for the iPhone 3G, the source reported being given two figures from Softbank: “$19 x 24 and $33 x 24,” representing a contract installment price of roughly $330 for the hardware, and a full price of roughly $800 for the iPhone without a contract, comparable to the pricing in Europe. “This is for the 16GB version,” the source said. “They don’t recommend the 8GB since at that rate it is only a few yen less per month.”

The service contract price outlined a “$10 ‘White Plan,’” which includes service “to cover all calls between Softbank phones and some others, an additional $3 for e-mail and other services and an all-you-can-eat internet access charge with a minimum of $10 and a maximum of $60.” That makes phone service between $37 and $87 per month on top of the $19 per month hardware payment.

Also complicating iPhone deals are fees on number portability. To migrate his existing phone plans, “it will cost $21 to transfer each phone number from NTT DoCoMo, plus $100 to cancel each phone’s current 2-year contract with NTT DoCoMo, plus $28 to transfer the numbers to Softbank. That’s almost $450 to switch my 3-phone family account. But Softbank will then give me $150 worth of department store gift coupons if I do.”

Barriers to iPhone Entry.

“It is worth noting that Softbank is not offering any special deals to its current customers to change from their present Softbank mobile to an iPhone, so they do not seem to have a mountain of unwanted iPhones to unload,” the source observed.

“New mobile phone customers, by contrast, can get a mobile phone, an internet access device and an iPod all rolled into one for zero yen plus the bills, compared to getting a different mobile phone, not much internet access and no iPod for zero yen plus the bills. And if your village or university has WiFi, the bills won’t be much different. So for teenage kids in Japan who do not have an iPod and do not have a mobile phone, Softbank is basically offering free hardware. Those that do (i.e. most teens in Japan) are waiting for their contracts and/or their iPods to expire.”

“The real message should therefore be that, with a densely-installed base of mobile phone users in Japan, expectations of a rapid escalation of iPhone purchases following the iPhone’s initial release were unrealistic. If the reports from MM Research Institute of approximately 500,000 units sold during the first 2 months were accurate, then the expectation that this would slow to 200,000 units per month were clearly not realistic.”

Missing Features?

What about the missing features such as emoji and 1seg that are always cited as critically important to the Japanese market? Commenting on the country’s phone market, Toshiyuki Oomori wrote in TechOn, “There is no doubt that Japanese mobile phones are also well-made. Many of their functions such as 1seg, e-payment and camera modes are even superior to the iPhone’s. Nevertheless, they lack the iPhone’s intriguing charm that makes people feel like using it.”

“It isn’t a case of it ‘being no good,’ but rather ‘that’s too bad.’ Something is not right with Japanese handsets. The iPhone has a lot of shortcomings, but hardly gives the impression of ‘being too bad,’ which Japanese mobile phones do.”

Takeshi Natsuno, the inventor of Japan’s i-mode mobile web service and former Senior Vice President NTT DoCoMo, said in an interview, “I believe the iPhone is closer to the mobile phone of the future, compared with the latest Japanese mobile phones.” Natsuno also said uses the iPhone 3G himself.

The reports of the iPhone’s tragic failure in Japan, its inability to compete against existing sophisticated Japanese phones, and the widely distributed tale that initial sales fell dramatically short of expectations all appear to be fictions based on a rather one-sided hit piece that was short on hard data.

iPhone Sheds Light on Weakness of Japanese Handset Makers — Tech-On!

Update: Reader Aristotelis offered a link to Smule, an iPhone virtual lighter app that tracks users on a global map. Half of the top ten cities reporting use are in Japan, indicating that the country isn’t quite as terrified by online purchases and befuddled about mobile software as the Journal tried to suggest. Zoomed out, the map shows Alaska twice, as well as the remote ice-covered corner of Russia that it neighbors. There’s also plenty of flames across the part of western Russia that is actually populated, despite the fact that the iPhone hasn’t officially gone on sale there yet.

Smule Flames
200809261407


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22 comments

1 Nick Barron { 09.26.08 at 4:50 am }

The rumor of..

“The reports of the iPhone’s tragic failure in Japan, its inability to compete against existing sophisticated Japanese phones, and the widely distributed tale that initial sales fell dramatically short of expectations all appear to be fictions based on a rather one-sided hit piece that was short on hard data.”

Has been circulating as you say without much in terms of evidence. Upon first reading about this I did some digging on what the situation in Japan was regarding mobile contracts etc and how the iPhone fitted in.

While searching I came across a few articles mainly focussed on the fact the iPhone was inferior to current phones in Japan so would fail, period.

Good to have some more angles and a bit more of a detailed analysis.

Cheers Dan

2 Janus { 09.26.08 at 5:20 am }

I will say, however, that sales of the iPhone in India are abysmal, as well they should be at their $800 official price. $800 for a SIM-locked phone to a carrier with no 3G and that may or may not be awarded a 3G license in the future? No thank you.

I say this as someone who loves Apple and is typing this on his pwned original Phone. Apple is doing worse than botching the iPhone launch. They don’t have apathy, they have alienated buyers who were led to believe it would cost $200, and Apple did nothing to recenter expectations.

3 oomu { 09.26.08 at 5:37 am }

> “. They don’t have apathy, they have alienated buyers who were led to believe it would cost $200, and Apple did nothing to recenter expectations.”

it seems Apple has made many sells in many countries and it’s quietly imposing its presence in the market.

of course, in India, t’s totally crazy. Who could afford that phone there ? it’s just a premium product launched in India because they could, not to sell many.

4 Jon T { 09.26.08 at 6:23 am }

That’s interesting oomu. I listened to this piece yesterday about designer labels doing fantastically well in India. One off watches at preposterous prices sell out in two days. There is a growing number of extremely wealthy people there…

Source BBC, 20 mins in on this podcast: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?i=39873339&id=135067274

5 Nick Barron { 09.26.08 at 8:15 am }

The old stereotype of India is not correct.

While obviously not the majority there is a substantial amount of wealthy people within the country.

@ Janus I cannot remember the prices of the European launches though in the UK free or £99 is a steal.

6 Aristotelis { 09.26.08 at 9:36 am }

Thank you for the always interesting articles.

Here’s another source for iPhone data in Japan.
http://app.smule.com/soniclighter/sonicnetwork/
This data are provided from an iPhone AppStore application that keeps track on how much time you run this lighter simulator app on the iPhone and adds it as “kilojoule” energy on your town. Look who’s first on the ranking.

Yes I know this is funny, but as far as I’m concern, this is as accurate as the WSJ article ;)

7 gus2000 { 09.26.08 at 11:36 am }

An American company selling 200,000 of ANYTHING in Japan (let alone something electronic) is nothing short of breathtaking.

Shouldn’t there be some web-usage statistics out there to show browsing patterns? It would at least allow an estimate of the number of Japanese iPhones in use (although it cannot distinguish between official and jailbroken phones).

8 PerGrenerfors { 09.26.08 at 12:17 pm }

@ oomu

A lack of wealth is seldom the problem in third-world countries. It’s just some are filthy rich while the rest struggle for food and shelter. In recent years, however, a middle class i emerging in India. Many of them earn enough money to send their kids to foreign unis, drive nice cars and have maids in their households. Why not top it off with an iPhone? There’s a lot of prejudice in this area, obviously.

9 GwMac { 09.26.08 at 5:08 pm }

I lived in Japan for 13 years and moved back to the States a few years back. I still travel to japan and keep up to date on the latest news and trends. My cellphone company in Japan was called Jphone which then was bought by Vodafone which was bought again by Softbank which now sells the iPhone. Japan is pretty similar to the US with our GSM vs CDMA divided market. They too have different standards of technology and GSM in no where to be found.

Before I get too far off track, let me say a few things about this article. Not having Emoji to Japanese is probably as important to Americans as not having the ability to send or receive text messages. It never made sense to me either, but that is just the way it is over there. By not including silly little animated faces smiling or whatever, it can actually be considered rude. This is partly due to the fact that Japanese text messages are very short and the kanji/hiragana/katakana (their alphabet) can be easily misunderstood without the emoticons to help explain the meaning or sentiment. This is a very, very, big deal. Apple needs to rectify this omission ASAP.

1SEG which allows free digital TV reception. This is also pretty majot because when I lived in Japan there always seems to be several hours during the day whether on trains, waiting in queues, etc.. where watching TV is a good distraction. Pretty much every phone in Japan includes this now so it seems weird for the iPhone not to also include it.

Internet – It might surprise many of you to know that they are not all that computer savvy. Most Japanese use computers at work but them spend the vast majority of their internet time using their cellphones and not computers. Since the iPhone has a great browser and screen for surfing that should be an advantage. In reality it isn’t since probably 90% of the website they tend to visit have been optimized for iMode and cellphones. They are used to that and feel comfortable with theses kinds of sites.

Camera/Video/MMS It is no secret that the Japanese love to take photos and videos. They also love to send them to their friends phones. Most phones in Japan have far better cameras than the iPhone and some new ones with optical zoom, 8MP, and flash are coming out soon. But even more than taking pictures, with Japanese phones you can send it to a friend with only about two clicks. Very easy to do. They also are huge fans of sending video clips. Not including video camera recording functionality or not being able to send multimedia messages was a dumb idea in America, but much more idiotic in Japan.

Felicia – or E-wallet which lets you pay with your phone. Japanese hardly ever use credit cards. It is very much a cash based society. So being able to skip buying a train picket with long lines and just walk through with your cellphone is pretty convenient. You can also use it at vending machines, convenience stores, etc. Not a deal breaker but it is nice to have.

Softbank’s poor coverage might also be holding iPhone sales down. Both Docomo and KDDI/AU have far better reception than Softbank so some are reluctant to switch even if they want an iPhone. Kind of like here in the U.S.

I also wrote an iPhone in Japan article on my blog and will paste the comment from one of the readers about some other typical keitai features.

1) waterproof
2) Has navigation and GPS programs for walking and driving
3) Can find other phones with GPS and put them on a map
4) 2-touch typing and ATOK ime predictive input
5) one-seg TV
6) cute characters animate in screen saver and menu screens
7) runs Adobe Flash and downloadable programs
8) 3G speeds allow for net access on the train with little waiting
9) FeLiCa touch-buying and message sending
10) IR data transfer to other phones
11) music service lets me hum first few bars of song I want to find
12) OCR engine allows me to take snapshot of Japanese text and look up in dictionary or put in email
13) 5.1 MP camera with image stabilization and sharpening
14) strap to yank out of pocket when it rings, or hold when running to train
15) up to 32 GB of storage in microSD
16) If I get phone call while watching TV, it automatically starts taping the show so I can watch it in tape-delay mode without missing a thing when I hang up
17) I can answer the phone after the voicemail has picked up and can screen calls

There are also several other features that the iPhone lacks like Ichi Navi, S Firends, and a few more. Read here for more details. http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/service/advanced/ichinavi/index.html

If you want to see Softbanks others phones in English click here, http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/product/lineup/3g/index.html

Not really trying to make any point, just wanted to add some details and my own views on why iPhone sales are not as good as they could be. Take from it what you will.

10 BobAk { 09.26.08 at 5:18 pm }

Good article.
One question regarding the statement, “If Apple actually sold 200,000 iPhones over the first two months, that would represent 2.4% of the Japanese smartphone market with sales of 50 million phones annually”: Wouldn’t 200k be .4% of the market rather than 2.4%? If the 200k/2mo. figure were projected over the first year, that would be 1.2 million phones which would represent 2%…maybe I’m missing something?

11 sysco { 09.26.08 at 10:06 pm }

I live in Tokyo and my friend has had one from day one. The biggest complaint about the phone is IT IS NOT FAST FOR TYPING JAPANESE. I hear this all the time. It responds slow to input as you type and select Kanji etc… This should improve though. nice article..

12 MooreChris { 09.26.08 at 11:17 pm }

I live in Japan and really want an iPhone, but I just can’t justify it at this point:

My current phone let’s me browse the web (all I really need is to access gmail occasionally), send emails, make phone calls (unlimited calling), listen to music, take pictures (3.2Mpx), do PIM functions , has GPS and lets me watch digital tv broadcasts, for ¥3000/month (about $30). The phone was free.

The iPhone does most of that, and the things it does, it does better. But I’d have to pay for the phone and the monthly plan is close to ¥10,000/month (~$100).

The iPhone isn’t worth the up front fee and extra $70/month for me. My other mac fan friends have come to the same conclusion. I have met one person with it, but he owns a business with over 100 employees. Not your average consumer.

I haven’t looked at numbers, but anecdotally and economically I think the iPhone is a difficult sell in Japan. Over time we can only hope softbank will reduce the cost of the unlimited data packet portion of the plan.

13 cy_starkman { 09.26.08 at 11:48 pm }

Hmm.

I read the article, I read the well considered comments.

So, basically what y’all are saying is that Apple has allowed Japanese developers to make money from writing Apps for the Appstore.

I can’t “see” the Japanese AppStore but from the fine selection of Apps with Kanji only descriptions that show up in the Australian AppStore I reckon any “short comings” are being covered by 3rd party. The TV one is a bit more tricky.

This is the point of the iPhone. Apple only need to provide the basic Apps. The rest are being made 3rd party. And, no, I don’t need to hear the open/closed whinge for a reply to my comment.

Also, and I find this interesting. All the journalism focuses around the iPhone and comparing it with mobile phone stats. Well, for one it isn’t a phone and two Apple isn’t a phone manufacturer.

If Nokia sold 10 million phones in a year. That would be a disaster. The company is geared to selling 100 million and providing no support or updates etc.

Apple isn’t on track to selling 10 million phones. It is on track to selling 10 million more computers not including their Mac range and is geared around those margins and mechanisms. Completely different.

Completely missed.

14 luisd { 09.27.08 at 4:23 am }

@cy_starkman
“Well, for one it isn’t a phone and two Apple isn’t a phone manufacturer.”

You are absolutely right! But it is being marketed by Apple as a phone, and it is doing that marketing so well, that it is compared against that category.

But why is Apple doing that? I think that if it was marketed as a computer people would not find it so appealing, and wouldn’t sell so well. Why to buy a mini computer that cannot do much, if I already have a portable that can do lots? Market it as a phone with superpowers instead and it becomes a very attractive gadget.

It is the same for the iPod touch. In what category do you place it? You cannot compare it against the other iPods or any MP3 player in the market by far. As a stand alone minicomputer has no appeal. Make it an iPod and again you have a huge market for it.

15 snafu { 09.27.08 at 7:16 am }

Saying the iPhone isn’t a phone is a bit too “Ministry of Truth”, don’t you think :). Of course it is a phone, of course Apple is a phone manufacturer, come on!

Ideally, third parties would provide the features the iPhone lacks. In practice, there are some obstacles: I don’t think Apple will allow for… well, for apps that compete with or duplicate its own apps, which means we won’t see mail app replacements or additions, input method replacements and the like; the same goes for video recording which is one of the most obvious features Apple has inexplicably left off the device, FLASH, etc., which are more “political” decisions. Not allowing for multitasking applications is another obstacle for certain functionalities, an OS-level one. And, in the end, the hardware isn’t capable of certain things, so no coding will be able to provide IR comms or DTT.

One suspects Apple won’t try to add the needed hardware featureset for a long time. If getting some of the most basic features for its Occidental clientele is like pulling teeth, I don’t know if it’ll want to cater any deeply for its Japanese market at all (see its subnotebook antics, or lack thereof mostly).

16 lowededwookie { 09.27.08 at 8:49 pm }

The iPhone is kind of like the A10 Tank Killer. It’s a plane sure but it’s a plane designed around it’s 30mm 7 barrel gatling gun. It’s also a capable bomber, and at a push can be used for anti-air defense.

The iPhone is a phone but it’s designed around the iPod. It’s a more than capable phone and surfs the internet with greater ease than any other phone on the market.

The A10 it can fulfil number of roles merely by adding different weapons. Does Grumman make the missles? No. Does Grumman make the bullets? No. Grumman doesn’t even make the cannon.

Apple doesn’t need to make the iPhone do all that is capable of being done on the Japanese phones because as was already mentioned third party developers are doing this instead. Apple doesn’t need to make a phone that caters for every market on the planet because third party developers can do that instead. Apple only needs to make a base phone and leave it to others to build it up.

On and most cell cameras are crap even at 8Mp. You look at most Japanese tourists and they will be packing serious camera gear not leaving it to piddley little cell cameras. In fact living in a very tourist friendly nation I have yet to see any Japanese tourists using cellphones in this way.

17 cy_starkman { 09.28.08 at 2:41 am }

@ luisd

You basically have it one. Check out our new mini computer would attract scorn not praise. I always find it useful to remember that Jobs was the marketing, Woz the technical. It is his skill, this is why the new range of Nano only have a couple of new features BUT come in 9 colours. New features won’t be a value proposition, but being able to finally get a powder blue one, well, that’s an instant sale. Think about it in the shop, two drab Zunes, some crazy buttoned Korean model and then this Rainbow of posters and metal. You won’t even see the others. Features only matters to us, the people who write comments, a bunch of nerds. LOL.

@Snafu

Nah, even though it does sound a bit “Ministry of Truth”, Apple doesn’t make phones. I have a 3G HSPDA modem, it has a SIM card, a number, an OS with a UI, it dials, it transmits data. I would not call it a phone though. A friend has a similar device but it also lets you send and receive SMS from your desktop. I wouldn’t call that a phone either.

Just because the iPhone has a 3G/EDGE chip in it and happens to send and receive data over that network doesn’t make it a phone. There is an included app that makes phone calls, sure. Just like my friend’s modem comes with an app to send SMS.

More significantly, I was referring to Apple’s way of looking at it, modelling its business, profitability. Apple is still making computers, with a different sales channel. What makes this important is all the percent of market stories.

In an annual market of 1 billion units, mobile phone companies have tiny margins and work on churning models, like shoes, to shift volume. Apple sells 10 million it is analysed as being small fry. If Apple jumped from selling not 2.5 million Macs but 5 million Macs in the quarter there would be analysts claiming the end of Dell and HP.

Look at the profit margins from iSupply breakdowns. An iPhone vs an iMac or Macbook. Look at the support, the firmware updates. Heck look at the crashing LOL.

Apple isn’t making phones. Its making a computer with a cellular modem and an App that makes phone calls. Apple calls it an iPhone, because Jobs is the marketing guy, it sells.

By stealth Apple doubled sales of its computers in under 12 months. And people are talking about the halo effect selling more Macs. If you buy an iPhone then switch your desktop to an iMac. You now have two Macs.

To move on to the Japanese features missing.

IR and DTT, both could be added as adapters on the bottom of the iPhone. Approved or not. The limits on what software can do. Well, yeah, sure. I wonder though. A year ago we were all crying foul at no SDK. Now we are crying foul at no multi threading. A year from now we will all be crying because of something else.

BTW oddly enough there are a few mail apps, but they do other things, add genuine features, like stationery, html send. ETC.

If a US electronics company can even sell 200,000 units over the life of a device in Japan there needs to be some kind of record book entry.

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19 tekro { 11.12.08 at 11:27 am }

Daniel,

Another good article. I’m tossing in some comments much too late to even be noticed, I’ll bet, but in case anyone’s still interested in the topic:

I posted an article along the same tack, at http://www.tekronomicon.com/page/2008/11/iphone_sales_in_japan_whats_real_story . There’s not much I can add in the absence of new sales data, but like your article, I try to question some of the conclusions the press is drawing despite a lack of data. I also add a couple of notes I haven’t seen elsewhere – such as the fact that the iPhone *does* have many of the allegedly missing “emoji” symbols. (They’re just not as easy to get at as many might like.)

A couple of comments to other commenters:

@gus2000: “An American company selling 200,000 of ANYTHING in Japan (let alone something electronic) is nothing short of breathtaking.”

Why do you think so? The market here (Japan) is awash in iPods, and many American PC companies have done great here too. Japan as some fortress closed to overseas electronics is a myth.

@GwMac: “By not including silly little animated faces smiling or whatever, it can actually be considered rude. This is partly due to the fact that Japanese text messages are very short and the kanji/hiragana/katakana (their alphabet) can be easily misunderstood without the emoticons to help explain the meaning or sentiment.”

Putting aside why users here might like adding little graphics to messages, and whether or not their use/non-use has anything to do with being “considered rude”, I can’t fathom that comment about Japanese writing being “easily misunderstood” without adding emoji symbols. There is nothing – I mean *nothing* – intrinsic to written Japanese requiring such symbols to aid meaning, at least no more than any other language. People in Japan did fine with written Japanese for centuries, without smilies etc.!

Thanks again for the interesting article, Daniel.

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