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Following up on the massive win for the iPhone during the launch weekend, let’s look at how the iPhone behaved now that we have a full week of sales.

Weekly phone sales ranking

Here are BCN‘s rankings, from Sept 23 to 29:

  1. iPhone 5 16GB (au/KDDI) — was #3 (+2)
  2. iPhone 5s 64GB (SoftBank) — was #2 (0)
  3. iPhone 5s 32GB (au/KDDI) — was #4 (+1)
  4. iPhone 5 16GB (SoftBank) — was #5 (+1)
  5. iPhone 5s 32GB (SoftBank) — was #1 (-4)
  6. iPhone 5s 64GB (au/KDDI) — was #9 (+3)
  7. iPhone 5s 64GB (DOCOMO) — was #6 (-1)
  8. iPhone 5s 32GB (DOCOMO) — was #7 (-1)
  9. Samsung Galaxy S4 — was #10 (+1)
  10. iPhone 5s 16GB (SoftBank) — was #8 (-2)
  11. Kyocera Gratina — was #11 (0)
  12. Sony Xperia A — was #12 (0)
  13. iPhone 5c 16GB (SoftBank) — was #15 (+2)
  14. Panasonic P-01 E — was #18 (+4)
  15. iPhone 5c 16GB (au/KDDI) — was #19 (+4)
  16. iPhone 5 32GB (SoftBank) — was #16 (0)
  17. iPhone 5c 32GB (DOCOMO) — was #17 (0)
  18. iPhone 5c 32GB (SoftBank) — was #25 (+7)
  19. iPhone 5 32GB (au/KDDI) — was #20 (+1)
  20. Sharp Aquos Phone Serie SHL22 — was #24 (+4)

Down the list, the iPhone 5c 32GB by au/KDDI is up 4 places to #24. The iPhone 5s 16GB by DOCOMO is down 13 spots to #26, the exact same fall for the same phone on au/KDDI at #26. The last appearance is made by the iPhone 5c 16GB on DOCOMO at #33 down three spots.

Still, another massive week for the iPhone 5s in Japan .

Remember that those ranking are derived from tracking points of sales—covering 40% of the OTC electronic stores—, notably not including Apple Stores, nor carrier shops. It has thus to be read as an indicator only, one that has proven solid historically1.

5s v. 5c

The situation remains almost unchanged from the launch weekend if we look at how the two models stacks against each other. The 5S still outsells the 5c by a wide margin . Unsurprising at this stage.

iPhone 5 v. 5c

Why does the iPhone 5 rank so high? au/KDDI and SoftBank are massively subsidizing the 16GB model rendering it “free”2. In other words, they’re dumping the stock. Back when the 5 was released, there was a very similar behavior with the 4s.

It’s almost ironic that au/KDDI would push this offer so strongly, since they’re so adamant on marketing their 800MHz LTE band …a band that the iPhone 5 lacks3.

Note that the networks are offering great discounts on the 5c, they just seem to first be wanting to clear the 5 first. DOCOMO seems on a holding pattern of wait and see, whereas they should probably use the angle of marketing a “free” 5c 16GB versus the old 5 its competition pushes.

Limited 5s supplies

Limited 5s supplies are being reported in shops around the country. This is the main reason behind the big drops in the rankings compared to last weekend, although one cannot yet read the short-term success of the new models (in other words: how frontloaded they were in the first three days).

This is also where the methodology of BCN—for all solid that it is as mentioned above—finds its limitation, as Apple Stores and flagship carrier shops are getting priority for replenishment.

DOCOMO’s share

I have the feeling that DOCOMO is not making the best job out of the iPhone . Comparing with last week, the carrier actually lost iPhone market share to its competitors throughout the week. It swapped its second place with au/KDDI4.

The lag in getting the carrier email to work on the device (not mentioning it’s not through a push method) but also the perceived lack of traditional DOCOMO offerings of back-ups, battery support and other services (through the Premier Club for instance) might partially explain this. But, again, I sense its marketing being at fault, probably because of a last-minute deal with Apple leaving no time to truly build any strategy.

SoftBank, clearly, continues to dominate the iPhone market . It’s way too early to seriously analyze the reasons. But it should win the subscribers gains batttle when the numbers are released later this month.

Breakdown by capacity

BCN broke down the sales by capacity, offering some additional insights.

As expected with an early adopter crowd, the more expensive models are the most popular.

If you look at the same numbers by carrier, you can see that SoftBank and DOCOMO share a similar pattern, the latter having more emphasis on the high-end model and the former a more even distribution overall. The 32GB version looks very successful at au/KDDI.

I wouldn’t read too much into this, as it could just be borne out of inventory issues. It’s only in the mid-term that we will be able to learn if carriers strategies are really into play.

The iPhone 5c is almost at 50/50 between the two available storage capacity: 49.1% for the 32GB and 50.9% for the 16GB.
The notable outlier is DOCOMO: the aggressive pricing of the 32GB compared with the two other networks could explain this differentiation.

In the end, the first full week of iPhone sales in Japan has cemented SoftBank as the market leader for that device, with DOCOMO and au/KDDI battling for second place.

At this time, it’s impossible to know how many of the overall sales came from existing carrier subscribers (DOCOMO and SoftBank being the most competitive), carrier switchers with number portability (au/KDDI and SoftBank being cheaper) or simply new contracts (DOCOMO seemingly offering a better deal).

It appears that DOCOMO is either not doing the best job in communicating its good prices, or suffering from an image problem, at least with early adopters. The second wave of subscribers, until next March, will give some clarity this murky question.


  1. another research company, GfK, reports rankings that are almost similar to those ones 

  2. for new contracts 

  3. that iPhone 5 version is only compatible with the 2100MHz band 1 LTE that au/KDDI offers, the 5s/5c also access the building-penetrating 800MHz band 18; note that if you’d want to also use the 1500MHz band 11 LTE, you should think about a Xperia UL for instance 

  4. note that the numbers are very similar even if you break them down by 5c v. 5s 

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