Link text

No wonder DoCoMo is raising its stakes in its smartphone strategy, it sold a solid 300,000 Sony Ericsson Xperias since its launch last April.

For a country that was stranger to any type of smartphones until recently, this comes as a wake-up call. Well, the wake-up call might have been the iPhone launch by rival SoftBank two years ago -it commanded a staggering 72% of smartphone sales last March- but it shows that there’s room for growth in a massively saturated cellphone market.

The operator will increase supply by 200,000 units to keep up with the demand and promises to add more features within the year to satisfy customer -and maybe to keep up with Japan’s habit of adding features all the time.

It has also beefed up its future smartphone line-up from 5 to 7 models, including the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S, which might very well be the flagship model along with one unnamed Blackberry handset. Interestingly, one of the models might be a tablet phone …a reply to the iPad . Of sorts, that latter one not having any phone capability. Chief Executive Ryuji Yamada hinted at talks with the South Korean handset maker.

It would make sense: along with a future app store, DoCoMo has announced an e-book initiative for feature phones that would fit with a tablet strategy. Samsung is on board, along with NEC and LG. An answer not only to Softbank’s Viewn iPad initiative, but also to rival KDDI’s partnership with Sony, Toppan Printing and Asahi.

The operator suffered some frustration after Apple and Softbank locked the iPad nation-wide, forcing it to abandon plans of selling data plans for the device. Softbank has also kept a lead in adding new subscribers almost every month since the iPhone arrival. In June, it added almost 230,000 new customers -certainly helped by the iPhone4 launch-, while DoCoMo only added 164,600 -and KDDI less than 64,000. To be fair, DoCoMo’s cancellation rate is kinda low, so there’s no threat to its kingdom.

DoCoMo hopes to reach a target of 1 million smartphones sold by year’s end. With 57m customers on its database, I guess it’s realistic.

Runs on WP Engine