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Apple Inc. (AAPL) Gives Up Ground in Japan

Last year, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) ranked as the top smartphone vendor in Japan by Counterpoint Research. That was an impressive feat considering Japanese consumer preferences for local brands. That’s changed since though, as Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) has doubled its market share in the past month to gobble up 36% of the market, according to Bloomberg, citing data from researcher BCN.

Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s big win is directly attributable to a big marketing push by the largest Japanese wireless carrier, NTT Docomo Inc (ADR) (NYSE:DCM), which doesn’t offer the iPhone. Smaller rivals SoftBank and KDDI have been chipping away at NTT DoCoMo’s subscriber base, thanks in part to carrying Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s device, so NTT DoCoMo is doing something about it.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)The top carrier, which now has 61.6 million subscribers, is putting hefty marketing weight and promotions behind just two specific smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) Xperia A. This is the first time that NTT Docomo Inc (ADR) (NYSE:DCM) has focused so heavily on such a small number of devices, in part to reduce costs.

Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s gains have come at the expense of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung, whose Japanese market shares have fallen to 25% and 13%, respectively. Sharp’s slice has also declined to 7.9%.

In the global smartphone market, Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) doesn’t typically come to mind as a powerhouse, although the Japanese icon did manage to show up within the top five vendors in the fourth quarter for the first time ever, with 4.5% of the broader market. Sony dropped off the top five the very next quarter.