By all indications, Japan is experiencing a shakedown in the mobile phone handset industry. For a long while, the Japanese market has been a very insular business. Foreign phone manufacturers like Nokia and Motorola, had a hard time selling their phones in Japan. This was mainly due to the feature sets the Japanese consumer has come to expect.
One prominent feature for Japanese smartphones is their use in dispensing electronic money. Japanese phones can be used for paying for most daily consumer items, like train tickets and bus tickets, and convenience store purchases. This level of use of electronic money is only now gaining ground in some western countries.
Of course, there is the difference between how the Japanese use their phones for purchases. The concept of electronic wallets as implemented outside of Japan is much like sending a text message to the carrier or electronic money repository. In Japan, mobile phone electronic wallets are used like toll-free e-cards. The Japanese just swipe their phone at a reader in order to pay or to transfer cash. There are even some applications where the phone does not even have to be turned on in order to be used.
Even before Android phones and the iPhone were introduced to Japan, mobile phone apps have gone beyond communications. Besides phone calls and text messages, electronic wallet and dedicated applications, cell phones are also used for gaming which is one of the largest markets for mobile phones in terms of revenues.
The market penetration of Android and iOS phones and tablets in Japan is unprecedented. No other product, electronic or otherwise has had a successful run at the Japanese market. Currently, Android devices account for 64% of the smartphone market, while Apple iOS accounts for 32%. There are, of course, Japanese manufacturers which have Android as their operating systems, but nevertheless, the use of feature phones seems to be in danger of extinction.
With the success of these imports, the features which make feature phones so compelling might soon appear as apps in Android, iOS, and to a certain extent, Windows Phone. The only hurdle remaining are the same hurdles that feature phones already encounter. These are usually isolated instances of interoperability, where one e-wallet may not work with a particular phone model. It would be sad to see the demise of feature phone models which are almost exclusively sold as bus ticket containers, but even then, these can be easily replaced once the manufacturers have made their minds about the direction to take. The infrastructure for electronic wallets has been painstakingly built, robust and won’t go away anytime soon. It just makes sense for developers and phone manufacturers to create apps to replace feature phones.
Another good news for Android and iOS fans, as well as developers, is that the carriers and service providers are actively pushing these phones. For Japanese manufacturers, there has been a shift in strategy. More and more feature phone manufacturers are now designing and releasing Android or Windows phones.
Apple fans need not worry about iOS presence in Japan. In terms of actual units sold, the 32% market share is a solid number which does not seem to be shrinking anytime soon. Apple has always had a great fan base in Japan, and this has translated to the iPhone and iPad as well. Japanese developers taken notice of the large installed base and have been creating new titles specifically for the iPad and iPhone. Existing apps are also being ported to iOS. With loyal followers from users to developers, Apple presence in Japan is certain, at least for the near future.
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About the Guest Author:
Rodolfo Lentejas, Jr. is a fulltime freelance writer based in Toronto. He is the founder of the PostSckrippt, a growing online writing business dedicated to producing top quality, original and fresh content. To know more about him, please visit www.postsckrippt.ca. Like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest