The model that many customers have been waiting for, NEC’s version of the 900i, are to go on sale on Feb. 22, NEC and DoCoMo said today. Meanwhile, DoCoMo has said it’s going to show FOMA off at the 3GSM World Congress 2004 in France next week with a direct link to Japan. Excitement is growing about the 900i series, with informal impressions collected by WWJ, plus hard evidence that we’ve heard from InfoPLANT indicating that NEC’s 900i could be a smash hit.
Over the past week, WWJ has been visiting some of Japan’s major electrical goods discount chains and we have come away with the clear impression that not only are folks here aware of FOMA, but are waiting for the NEC and Panasonic models. Just yesterday we were at a major store (Bic Camera) in Shibuya talking to the sales staff on the mobile phone floor. As chance would have it, a woman customer in her late teens or early 20s was just at that moment doing the paperwork on her Fujitsu 900i purchase! A little case of QED, we suggest.
Of course, the following information is very informal, but its from people in the know, on the front lines. We asked simple questions such as “what do people think of FOMA, is there brand recognition?” The answer, we were told, lies in the sales, which are taking off. The word also seems to be out on the street now that FOMA is cool. This should be real music to DoCoMo’s ears.
Staff at Bic Camera were also upbeat on whether the 900i series will sell well. In a nutshell, the answer was “yes.” BUT, the guys we talked to also said that customers are waiting for the NEC and Panasonic versions, which answers quite a few more questions in itself.
It’s no secret that NEC and Panasonic have great reputations in Japan, and the two companies have traditionally held the lion’s share of the PDC market. On top of this, our anecdotal evidence shows that NEC and Panasonic in particular have built up brand loyalty and customer respect to such a degree that people will hold off purchasing until their particular maker gets the new product out! Wow!
New Data out from InfoPLANT/ C-News, which conducts dozens of market research polls tracking user/ technology trends in Japan and Korea confirms this. According to InfoPLANT the 900i is already changing FOMA’s image to cool. To date, Sharp, NEC and Panasonic have already built customer loyalty. Under this, a recent poll of 400 people about whether they think the FOMA brand “desirable” (read cool, buyable) shows a surge in popularity in the teenager and 20-something age groups, with the desirability of a megapixel camera, the new deco mail function and the chaku motion functions stimulating most excitement.
We have an upcoming program on this, so we don’t want to give too much of the game away now, but, as we said, there is hard evidence that FOMA is past its fumbles and forging ahead.
As you’d expect, the NEC is a top-class phone, so please read thepress release to get the hot, hot, specs.
– Paul Kallender