I hate to say this but with the exception of Microsoft's Windows (and Michael Jackson), foreign companies have a tough time cracking Japan's domestic market with entrenched players who often enjoy social advantages, and at times, aid from the government. WSJ (via Macdaily News) indicated iPhone's price but it's not that. This is a nation of very sophisticated and particular consumers with some owning more than one mobile devices. Cost ain't a thing.
More likely, it's what the iPhone cannot do.
- Used as a debit or credit card.
- Used as a public transportation pass.
- Used to watch TV.
- Lack of emoji for messaging (can't this be fixed with apps?)
Just like what Apple was forced to do (and a wise move) in licensing Microsoft's ActiveSync, Apple will have to license certain technologies and add them to Japan's version of the iPhone. It's not going to happen with the current iPhone, that much we know.
I believe Apple like has stuff in the works. Be patient, folks. These things are coming. The government is also actively seeking a role in bring domestic mobile technology to the rest of the world.
There is one thing I agree completely with the WSJ article. Apple needs to leverage its app store more and cultivate domestic developers who know the market better than anyone else. Better than Apple.
I think this is a good thing for mobile users in the US and else where. So far where Apple goes, so goes the market. Once Apple conquers Animeland, it'll likely bring back some of the tech goodies for our US iPhones.
Note: WSJ figured Japan has an annual sale of 50 million phones. If Apple were to reach 500,000 in a year, that is not bad considering Nokia has been in the market for years and command a mere 1% of the market. That's right. 500K units. Not bad, Cupertino.
Update: An example of developers filling any function gap in the iPhone is Flutter, a MMS app. MMS is a feature many lamented about the iPhone not having. So, it's good to see someone step up to provide the need. Maybe Apple's iPhone function development ends here now that they've provided a true mobile platform for others to create apps on.