Rumours of the iPhone's death in Japan have been greatly exaggerated, if the marketing hype and the prominence given to the latest version of the device in the country's retail stores is anything to go by.
It is sometimes said that Apple has found it relatively hard to gain serious market share in one of the world's most technologically advanced nations. Contributing to this is the perception of the nation as a tech "Galapagos", where its products, standards and services have evolved in a unique, incomparable way which crucially makes them almost completely incompatible with those outside its borders.
But on a trip to the Far East last week I found serious floor space devoted to both the iPhone 4 and iPad in large electrical stores such as Yamada Denki and Bic Camera up and down the land.
Shop assistants told me the device was their best seller, while a straw poll of Japanese friends told the same story. One, an English teacher in Niigata prefecture, said the iPhone 4 had finally realised the standards expected of Japanese consumers, with the extensive range of apps on offer crucially giving users a greater number of customisation options.
The chief executive of exclusive iPhone 4 carrier Softbank,echoed these findings last week, saying that the firm's strong performance last quarter was down to the success of the iPhone and iPad. IPhone 4 sales had "far exceeded" his expectations, he added.
Other bestsellers, according to shop assistants, are Sony Ericsson's latest Xperia handsets and Sharp's Android-based IS01 smartbook. Touchscreen devices aside, the most popular handsets in Japan are still of the clamshell variety, with a far more boxy, angular design than many western equivalents.
That, of course, gives Japanese consumers ample surface area to bling up their devices by affixing various stickers, gemstones and other assorted items. A whole mini industry has grown up around these peripherals, with many electrical retail stores even offering a dedicated counter where a professional can pimp your phone to order.
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