Feb 17, 2015

    Flip phones still a hit in Japan


    JAPANESE shipments of traditional flip phones rose last year for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments fell, highlighting Japanese consumers' tenacious attachment to the familiar and typically less expensive older models.

    Dubbed "Galapagos" phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 per cent to 10.58 million last year, data from market researcher MM Research Institute shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 per cent to 27.7 million, down for a second year.

    Users in Japan pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, the Telecommunications Ministry says, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Accustomed to years of deflation, many Japanese are content with old-style flip phones offering voice-call, e-mail and in most cases basic Internet services.

    Panasonic and NEC have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with dominant brands Apple and Samsung Electronics. They still make flip phones, though, competing in a crowded market with Fujitsu and Sharp, among others.

    But with a mobile penetration rate of 98.5 per cent, or 125 million subscriptions, there is little scope for significant overall growth in Japan's mobile market, MM Research said.

    "Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals," said MM Research executive analyst Hideaki Yokota.

    He said that last year was a particularly strong year for renewals in the subscription cycle for flip phones, suggesting that last year's growth may not be repeated this year.