Why don’t Japanese Manufacturers Dominate the UK Mobile Market?


With Japanese technology at the forefront of many innovations you would expect that Japanese mobile customers would be using the most popular and advanced phones in the world. Well you would be half right, Japanese users have some of the most technologically advanced mobiles available today but not from the manufacturers we know and love here in the UK.

The Sharp AQUOS delivers split-screen TV to mobile phones..



The bestselling mobile phones in Japan are made by Sharp, Panasonic and Fujitsu who have had very little or no success in the UK market. Surprisingly the bulk of phones used in Japan are feature phones (otherwise known as “dumb phones”) with their own proprietary operating systems and the most popular form factor is the flip phone, something that has lost appeal over the years here in the UK.


So why are these phones so popular in Japan and not elsewhere? Japanese feature phones are not like the phones we use, with many of them being able to run apps, stream Live TV and watch movies and many incorporate mobile payment technology which is hugely popular in Japan.


The Panasonic Lumix combines a true digital camera with a mobile phone.


Smartphones have been growing in popularity in Japan and Asia with the iPhone starting to gain momentum and the favourite brands amongst Japanese users rolling out Android phones. So why is it these phones have not had the same popularity in the rest of the world? One of the main issues with Japanese handsets is that the hardware has been developed specifically for Japanese networks, making it expensive to re-design and manufacture each model for world release. Mobile payments in Japan are a normality, however the tap and go technology is only used in Japan rather than the NFC system that is becoming the system of choice for the rest of the world.


Brightly coloured flip phones are popular in Japan


Panasonic is having another go at the world mobile market with the release of the Eluga smartphone that will be released in Japan and Europe next month. The stylish slim waterproof phone will have an 8-megapixel camera, Android OS and DLNA and NFC connectivity. The phone looks visually stunning but with stiff competition from the likes of the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5 will Europe embrace Panasonic after such a long absence? Fujitsu has also showcased a range of high-end smartphones planned for Europe with biometric technology and 4G support.


The Panasonic Eluga is heading to the UK in April


So for now the Japanese market stands alone from the rest of the world with some of the most advanced phones that have yet to dominate the market, however with the likes of Samsung and Apple gaining popularity in Asia and Japanese makers Panasonic and Fujitsu eyeing up the European markets could the differences disappear? Japanese mobile users are quick to embrace new technology and with innovations like 3G originating from Japan it is likely that the Japanese market will continue to be years ahead of the rest of the world, but it’s a great indicator of what new technology to expect for the rest of us here in the UK and Europe.



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