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Iphone Japan Apple

How Steve Jobs Got the iPhone Into Japan 104

hcs_$reboot writes "Masatoshi Son, SoftBank CEO, remembers the early days when he tried to cut a deal with Steve Jobs in order to be the first to offer the not-even-named-iPhone-yet- 'new phone' from Apple, back in 2005. At the time, Son didn't even own a mobile carrier. He then purchased Vodafone, and was indeed the first to sell the iPhone in 2008 (then Au-Kddi in 2011, and DoCoMo in 2013). Today, 75% of smartphones sold in Japan are iPhones."
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How Steve Jobs Got the iPhone Into Japan

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  • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Friday March 14, 2014 @06:14AM (#46480989)

    The story was hilarious as it showed the sheer depth of incompetence at apple, and Jobs' utter inability to be flexible until reality hit him in the face several times over.

    When you think about it, the Japanese market is perfect to iphone's "style over substance" approach. That's how it always functioned, and now just with phones but with many consumer goods ranging from electronics to plush toys (which have a huge adult market in Japan!) Problem is, Japanese have some very specific requirements when it comes to their goods that are typically completely unique to Japan and do not exist outside that country. They need to be made suitable for them functionally and culturally, as they have a very different approach to many things from one we have here in the West.

    So initial foray was an unmitigated disaster. People returned early iphones back to stores in droves and the reason was utterly obvious - Jobs' idea for iphone was "same thing everywhere", and Japanese absolutely needed several significant adjustments to their phone, such as integration of certain Japan-centric services and input methods. The crash of iphone in market that everyone thought it would immediately take it by the storm actually got major players like Fujitsu say that Japanese market was so different, Western companies just don't stand the chance.

    Then someone at Apple hit Jobs with clue bat hard, "one approach for all markets" paradigm was buried for Japan and iphones sold in Japan were significantly adjusted to match expectations of Japanese public.

    Rest was history. While numbers are not quite as silly as this article suggests, Japan today has one of the highest iphone sales per capita in the world, because the general idea behind iphone, the "style over substance" approach is simply what Japanese market and mindset is all about. All it needed was understanding that no, your product is not perfect for all people everywhere and that some important adjustments for cultural differences and expectations are necessary.

    In many ways, it makes for a good extreme case study on how products, no matter how good they are, always need to be adjusted for sales in target area.

  • Re:BULLSHIT! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Friday March 14, 2014 @06:33AM (#46481057)
    Irrespective of what sells and what does not , both the iphone and the android have let down the geeks. Iphone is a decent platform but the proprietary bulls**t of apple is anything by geekiness.. The android on the other hand is pure evil . based on big data money models , google cares a squat about the users. The application layer is inherently insecure and the whole open sauce thing is pseudo.
    IMHO Both are crap phones .
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 14, 2014 @08:23AM (#46481463)

    I'm not attempting to be condescending and simplistic. I'm merely pointing out that apple's design paradigm of "image and style first" align very well with Japanese culture.

    I think every single person of Apple's design team would vehemently disagree with the "'Image and style' first" idea. Steve Jobs said "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Part of that is the physical layout as well as the software functionality. Certain things may be too subtle for most people to recognize (like the differences between Helvetica and Arial), but that doesn't mean they weren't thought about.

    Now you may disagree on how well the iPhone works for you, but I think it would be unfair to project your preferences onto the Apple iDevice phones and simply say they're only image conscious. Similarly many folks think that iDevice buyers only purchase things because of marketing (where in fact Samsung actually spends four times more marketing than Apple), and not because they think they're the least crappy thing out there (e.g., 90+ % of the mobile malware being on Android).

  • Re: BULLSHIT! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Migity ( 1199059 ) on Friday March 14, 2014 @08:23AM (#46481469)
    It's still bullshit because anybody can go on there and rate whatever they want. It's not a real chart of sold items but a popularity contest.
  • Sorry, that's rubbish. The Japanese value features in the electronics above all else. Their entire economy is built in consumers replacing perfectly good appliances with new ones just to get some new feature the old one didn't have. Even mundane stuff like rice cookers keep adding new things and you can pay over 100,000 yen for a top of the line model.

    When the iPhone first came out it did have a bit of an edge on features in some areas. The problem is that it was rapidly overtaken. There are a lot of Japan-only phones that it was competing with but which people in the west know nothing about. These days the lack of things like NFC is a big issue. Even stuff like the camera, traditionally an Apple strong point, is looking weak in the face of competition with optical stabilization.

    It is absolutely about substance and tangible features in Japan. Style is important too, but the Japanese actually research stuff before buying and specs matter. Just visit any bookshop and see the shear number of books on which smartphone to buy, and how they evaluate them.

  • by Flytrap ( 939609 ) on Friday March 14, 2014 @09:37AM (#46481961)

    I think that the charts are depicting different things... the first is based on online votes (and we all know the kinds of people who flock to those), and the second is actual retail sales.

    Mobile network operators do not care which mobile phone brand you choose (save for the amount of subsidy each brand may require)... as long as you take it with a contract from them. In other words, they have little reason to lie about which smartphone brand their customers are choosing when they sign up for new contracts.

    I am more inclined to believe the CEOs of 3 different publicly listed companies who are fiercely competitive and have to answer to the scrutiny of shareholders and analysts, than some random web site running an unscientific online popularity contest.

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