Survey of Japan's Wireless Market
Survey of Japan's Wireless Market

Survey of Japan's Wireless Market

Survey of Japan's Wireless Market

Research house and consumer survey firm INFO PLANT recently held a seminar on the main themes and directions of Japan’s wireless market in 2004. INFO PLANT’s C-News editor-in-chief Tomoki Sakaino began with some interesting comparisons between the Korea and Japan markets before offering unique insights into the prospects for FOMA and FeliCa this year; he also reviewed studies into attitudes about DoCoMo’s new 900i-series 3G handsets and TV broadcast content for mobile devices.

During the presentation, Sakaino-san offered helpful insights into prospects for a series of key technologies being rolled out this year based on INFO PLANT’s ongoing consumer research (disclaimer: WWJ is a new reseller of INFO PLANT surveys).

One thing that (happily) surprised us were consumer attitudes to FeliCa: While only about a third of people polled by INFO PLANT said they were interested in using FeliCa after a basic explanation, attitudes warmed up when the technology was explained in more detail. INFO PLANT concludes that because people are very satisfied with Japan Railway’s “Suica” contactless ticket payment card (which uses FeliCa technology), the prospects for a fundamental shift of e-payments to mobile phone are indeed strong—if not right away this year, than certainly perhaps over the next year or two (DoCoMo and KDDI are due to roll out FeliCa-equipped mobiles this summer).

The news on the 900i-series 3G handsets shows exactly what people want—or have been trained to expect—from cellular phones. When a group of 400 teenagers were asked what they were most excited about from the series, 170 said megapixel cameras were the most impressive and wanted feature, “deco-mail” was a strong second with just under 140, and “chaku-motion” was No. 3 with about 130 people choosing this. In fact, deco-mail just pipped external removable flash memory to the post.

There was also a significant jump in the percentage of people who found the 900i-series attractive compared to other 3G FOMA models. For example, 45% of teenagers said they found FOMA handsets appealing, but this jumped to 66.1% for the 900i-series. In the 20-19 age group, the percentage jumped from 37.6% for non-900i terminals to 51.3% for the 900i. Again, it was 40.3% for 900i against 29% for non-900i FOMA. The history of i-mode shows the crucial importance of getting Japanese teens to like new technologies. As DoCoMo has admitted, i-mode’s real launch began in the streets of Shibuya with the kids.

Looking at attitudes among 20- and 30-somethings towards the 900i, the importance of megapixel cameras for Japanese consumers proved to be overwhelming. In various surveys, both age groups overwhelmingly picked megapixel cameras as the most attractive feature.

Here’s some information that we didn’t include in the voiceover: Among all age groups, Sharp’s SH900i proved to be the most attractive model for teens, 20-, 30- and 40-somethings. NEC’s N900i came second in every age group, Panasonic’s P900i third, and D900i and F900i (from Mitsubishi and Fujitsu, respectively) competed for the wooden spoon in each age category.

We were surprised by INFO PLANT’s conclusion that replacement cycles look as if they are actually contracting. Our feeling has been that people have just paid for their 505i-series, which hit the streets last summer, and that if they are going to go for a replacement, then KDDI/au seems to have been the overwhelming choice for the last six months or so. DoCoMo’s partial introduction of flat rates may, however, have an impact once they are available on June 1.

As we said in our recent Viewpoint, DoCoMo does appear to have pulled a fast one in getting the news out that it’s going flat rate for packet data not because it’s reacting to KDDI but because this is no longer important—based on a so-called “paradigm shift” with mobile commerce and FeliCa, etc. Hmmmmm….

The truth is that, as we have pointed out, flat rates are only being introduced to a very limited number of high-end FOMA users. DoCoMo is counting on the news getting out on the streets that flat rates are out to pull people into FOMA.