NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, has staunchly opposed stocking the iPhone since its Japanese release. That stance may chance, with the telecom giant’s chief financial officer citing “compelling reasons” for an Apple agreement—a move that could boost the profitability of both companies as rivals chip away at market share.
The development was first reported in Japanese by Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. 9to5 Mac provided a rough translation of the most pertinent information, which The Diplomat has edited for clarity:
A new iPhone from Apple is expected in September. The Japanese market is paying close attention to whether NTT DoCoMo will be selling the new model or not. Having sold two other models as their main phones for the past summer season (which The Diplomat can confirm were the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia A), the company is ready, as [CFO] Kazuto Tsubouchi commented, ‘The only problem is deciding when we are going to sell it.’”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Tsubouchi added that the new iPhone’s expected September release date may pass before DoCoMo and Apple can reach an agreement—though he said that DoCoMo “must sell phones that the customers desire.” He also told Bloomberg that the iPhone would have to account for less than 30 percent of the company’s total smartphone sales.
As for the specific Japanese release date, The Tokyo Times is claiming a September 20 release date for both the iPhone 5S and 5C. KDDI and SoftBank, Japan’s second and third largest mobile carriers, will both stock the new iPhone handsets from launch day.
DoCoMo shares rose by 2.1 percent after the news from Sankei, closing at 159,000 yen – the highest since May 22. KDDI shares fell 2 percent, and SoftBank was down 0.5 percent.
Although DoCoMo is the current market leader in Japan, it has the slowest growth of the top three. “NTT DoCoMo added 172,500 users in July, compared with 225,200 at KDDI and 254,500 for third-ranked SoftBank,” said Bloomberg.
Tsubouchi’s remarks contradict previous reports that DoCoMo would focus on three Japanese brands for its winter campaign lineup. Earlier this month, Reuters sources claimed that DoCoMo will choose Sony, Sharp, and Fujitsu handsets as the company headliners. Sony is expected to release a new Xperia “Z1,” also dubbed the Honami or i1, but it is unclear what the new offerings from Sharp and Fujitsu could be. Samsung is to be dropped from the spotlight after sales of the Galaxy S4 fell below DoCoMo expectations.
DoCoMo has cited many reasons for refusing the world’s most popular handset. One issue may be the high volume that Apple requires carriers to commit to—but DoCoMo’s biggest sticking point appears to be its desire to pre-load each iPhone with unapproved software.
With hype over the next iPhone escalating daily, NTT DoCoMo may be committing brand seppuku if it continues to shun Apple. Only time will tell if Tsubouchi’s approving words translate into action.