Android OS dominates in Japan, but iPhone still top device

Android-based smartphones accounted for more than half (57%) of Japan’s fast growing smartphone market according to a new report which shows the OS outgrew Apple’s overall share in the market.

The research from MM Institute puts Android’s sales (4.91 million at year end March 2010) ahead of Apple who grabbed 38% of the country’s smartphone sales in 2010 (3.23 million handsets).

The stats are all the more remarkable considering that Android’s previous annual sales in the country had amounted to just 250,000 units, then 11% of the smartphone market.

Pic: AP.

However, despite the change in operating system dominance, Apple and the iPhone, remain the most popular single device in the market as Bloomerg (via the San Francisco Chronicle) reports:

The Cupertino, California-based company remains the most popular handset maker in Japan, according to MM Research. Sharp Corp., which introduced its first Android model in June 2010, was second with a 24 percent share of shipments, followed by Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB’s Xperia with 9.8 percent.

Essentially the news is misleading and fairly logical as Android has a far larger base of devices than Apple which gives it a huge advantage when it comes to OS domination.

Japanese Android devices have come from a vast array of players including ZTE, NEC, Sony Ericsson, Sharp, Kyocera and have included the world’s thinnest device, a 3D phone and a rumoured offering from Disney which could be set for launch this year.

Android has long been seen as the most likely “mass market smartphone” thanks to its diverse range of products, manufactured by a range of handset makers, and in particular its low cost devices which are helping drive smartphone ownership across Asia, which is now the world’s largest smartphone market according to research from Canalys.

While the above applies to much of the Asian region, Japan’s mobile industry is considerably more advanced than its regional peers which, combined with greater economic power and affluence, has helped make the iPhone its most popular smartphone in stark contrast to other regional markets where BlackBerry and Android enjoy stronger presence.

With Apple fever breaking out across Asia this year with the launch of the iPad 2, it will be interesting to see how sales of the upcoming but unconfirmed Apple iPhone 5 go in Japan, and whether Apple can wrestle the top OS spot back from Android’s growing collective of devices.

Though Japan’s smartphone market is a young and growing one, Japanese consumers have long-used advanced phones and services before they gained popularity internationally.

Last year internet browser firm Opera identified Japan as Asia’s strongest iPhone market with close to 1.4 million iPhone owners using the firm’s mobile browser.