In an unusual public dispute over the current Japanese popularity of the iPhone 3G, Tokyo-based freelance writer and self-described “most famous advocate of iPhone in Japan” Nobuyuki Hayashi has taken Wired to task for republishing his eight-month old quote on the topic—originally rendered before the launch of the device—as evidence of Japan’s supposed “hate” for the iPhone. Hayashi, who has written about Apple products for a number of Japanese and international publications, used the situation as a springboard to disagree with Wired’s article, and share a wide variety of interesting observations about the iPhone 3G’s successes and problems in Japan, including:
• Initial skepticism from certain newspapers, including the Sankei Shimbun, has evolved into more positive coverage with the growth of the App Store.
• While projected Japanese sales of the iPhone 3G are in the 300,000 – 400,000 range, lower than apparently inaccurate sales targets that were circulated last year, poor overall Japanese cell phone sales in 2008 would place the iPhone’s Japanese sales at or above Apple’s targeted global 1% level for the year.
• Apple responses to Japanese complaints about the device have been addressed by the company, including the addition of Emoji icons and the sale of a battery-aided TV tuner, with pricing issues addressed this week in a campaign that has seen lines forming to purchase iPhones.
• One remaining issue, the iPhone 3G’s inability to serve as a digital credit card for making purchases, has not been addressed by Apple, though some iPhone users have developed workarounds known throughout the Japanese community.
• Softbank, Apple’s sole service partner for the iPhone in Japan, has recently won awards for its TV advertisements, but has done comparatively little to promote the iPhone due to Apple approvals required for marketing purposes.
Consequently, the majority of Japanese consumers remain unfamiliar with the device, though they warm quickly to it when they’re given the opportunity to actually use one.
• Softbank lags modestly behind competitors NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in network coverage and frequency options, and has struggled with domestic media perceptions about its viability, reasons that Apple might need to expand its partnerships in the country.